Wednesday, 3 April 2013

In search of the best eggplant salad in Myanmar

Hilda turns into Burmese cuisine  fan in Yangon
It was love at first sight so to speak. The first time we tasted the khyan dhi pope thote  (eggplant) salad was in "Padomar", an old Governor's mansion converted into a restaurant in Myanamar's old captial in Yangon.

The manager, who graciously offered to serve us, recommended this dish served with the soy sauce and lime soaked with fresh garlic and chopped green chilis. He stressed that their eggplant salad is unlike any other in the whole of Mynamar. Theirs is grilled over charcoal and mixed with dried shrimps, chopped nuts, garlic, fresh coriander sesame seed and topped with shallots and green onions. And so it began, our search for the best roasted eggplant salad in Myanmar.

The Moon's specials listed on a board 
It was Good Friday when we arrived in Bagan (1.5 hours flight from Yangon). Being Catholics, we decided to forego meat. For lunch, our guide Mr. Shwe brought us to his favorite vegetarian restaurant in Old Bagan called "The Moon Vegetarian Restaurant Be Kind to Animals", next to Tarabar Gate. This should not be confused with "Full Moon" located in the touristy strip in Nyang Shwe. The  place is located in an open space garden (expect  dirt floor), with hanging plants, wooden chairs and tables covered with red and white checkered table cloth.

The meals are freshly prepared and they have the special of the day listed on the board. I must say that The Moon's eggplant salad is the best! The smoky smell wafted as it was served on the table. Here the eggplant was roasted then mashed and served with warm roasted nuts,  crispy garlic, sesame seeds, onions and shallots, tomatoes, topped with sesame and pumpkin seeds.
The Moon, the best roasted eggplant salad ever!
Black Bamboo in Bagan

For dinner, we opted to try hot air balloon's pilot Lee Hooper's recommendation in Lonely Planet - "Black Bamboo", an open garden right off the main road in Nyang Shwe. The place is run by a French lady and her Burmese husband. Unfortunately, the eggplant salad and sad to note that all the other salads are so-and-so. They are more known for their steaks but they serve the best rum raisin ice cream that I've ever tasted!

In Lake Inle (flight is an hour to Heho and another hour's drive to the Lake), we stopped by Green Chili on Hospital Road. It's in a home converted into a restaurant. The dishes are similar to Thai food. Their eggplant salad had more coriander and  ginger. But their tea leaf salad was divine.
Green Chili's in Lake Inle
Off to Nga Phe Chaung in Lake Inle  (another hour by boat)
In Lake Inle we ventured down to Sagar, a two hour trip by boat down south from our hotel in Nga Phe Chaung. The place is quite remote and hardly reached by tourists. It was plagued with civil wars among the ethnic groups and opened up fairly recently. We spotted several tomato orchards in the floating garden that during lunch, we decided to try something from the lake - this is the tomato salad which is again the best I've ever tasted.

After all this food tasting in three cities in Myanmar, I am now a bonafide fan of Myanmar cuisine. I'm still looking for a restaurant here in Manila that serves Myanmar dishes. Meantime to satisfy my craving, I found this online from

2 medium eggplants
2 small shallots, thinly sliced and soaked in cold water
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 tabelspoons peanut oil

1 teaspoon dried shrimps, pounded into floss
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
1 teaspoon roasted peanuts, chopped
small handful of fresh coriander, chopped
1/2 lime, juiced
1 tabelspoon fish sauce
Eggplant, Tea Leaf, Penworth 
 at the Strand Hotel  in Yangon
*mine: add finely sliced chilies and 1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds

Place the eggplants whole on a flat baking sheet lined with foil. Pierce the eggplants with a knife to stop them
from burtising during cooking. Place under a hot grill for 15-25 minutes turning them occasionally. Be sure to let the skin color and char. While the eggplants ar egrilling, make the crispy garlic and oil. heat the oil in a small scause pan and fry the garlic until golden and aromatic. Remove with a slotted spoon and cool. Drain the shallots and squeez them in your hands to remove any water. Pop them in a bowl.
When the eggplants are ready, cool a little until they can be handled. Cut them in half and scoop out the flesh into the bow. Mix in 1 tabelsppon of the frying oil and the garnishes. Taste and adjust the seasoning so there is a balance of salt and sourness. Serve while the salad is still warm.
Serves two and takes at least 25 minutes to prepare.

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