Soup - Myanmar Style
Soup is an essential dish in the menu of most nations. Westerners take their soup at the beginning of every meal before the main course. the Chinese. at the end and as far as I know. for most Asians. it is an accompanying dish through out the meal. something to wash down the solid foods. And though it may only be liquid nourishment. it is satisfying and refreshing. A meal without soup seems dry and unappetizing. Which reminds me of the eccentric but famous U.S. General Patton of World War II fame. During his campaign in the European Theatre after D-Day during World War II. it was said that he and his troops had advanced so far ahead that his supplies had run out particularly food and gasoline and he had sent urgent messages to headquarters for replenishment of supplies In demanding that food supplies for his men be sent ASAP. he mentioned that in the meanwhile his men had been surviving on 'rock soup'. When asked later what kind of ingredients had been used in this soup he replied testily that it was cooked with just rocks (collected from the roadside) and water. So. soup is truly something we cannot do without even during battle. Whether it is the noonday meal or dinner. a soup. which is either hot and sour. or mild and sweet. always accompanies a Myanmar meal. Both are very easy to cook but it is important to use the ingredients in just the right proportions. The favourite vegetable used for both kinds of soup is the gourd.
(1) Hot and Sour Gourd SoupIngredients
- Half a medium sized gourd.
- Catfish - 2 (or more if preferred) of medium size
(Other fish or raw/dried fish and shrimp may also be used)
- Fish paste - 2 tablespoons
- Fish/shrimp sauce - 2 teaspoons
- Onions - 2 bulbs
- Chilies - 5 pods
- Garlic - 2 bulbs
- Turmeric - ½ teaspoon
- Groundnut oil -3 ounces
- Tamarind - 3 ounces
- Salt -to taste
How to Cook
Cut the fish into 2 -inch lengths and wash thoroughly. Marinade with salt and turmeric. Pound the dried chilies. onions and garlic together. Wash tamarind thoroughly then soak in a bowl with hot water.
Cut the gourd into 2-inch strips and slice not too thinly. Wash and drain. Boil the oil in a pot till it is cooked and then put in the pounded chilies. onion and garlic and fry. When this turns brown put in fish. and cut pieces of gourd a little later. Add fish paste dissolved in water. Cover and cook till the gourd is soft.
Add tamarind juice and fish sauce and salt to taste. Add about two cups of water. When it has come to the boil after about five minutes the hot and sour soup is ready to serve.
An easier way is to add all the ingredients. including the oil. and except the tamarind juice and cook till it comes to the boil and the gourd has softened. Add tamarind juice and cook till it comes to a boil. This is how it is cooked in the rural areas. this is known as the 'Lone Chet' method meaning cooking the whole lot at one go.
(2) Sweet Gourd SoupIngredients
- Gourd - a quarter of a medium sized gourd
- Catfish - 2 of medium size. or 5 ounces of raw or dried prawns.
- Fish paste - 2 ounces.
- Fish or shrimp sauce - 2 ounces
- Pepper - corn - half teaspoon
- Garlic - 1 bulb
How to cook
Wash the fish thoroughly and grill. Bone when cooked and set aside. Peel the gourd strips and slice.
Dissolve fish paste in water; crush garlic and add half of it together with ground pepper. Mix in the grilled fish with about two cups of water and cook till boiling hot.
When ready to serve add the sliced gourd and the remaining amount of crushed garlic and cook for a minute or so. The sliced gourd should not be overcooked. Add more ground pepper if preferred.
This soup is the delight of the Myanmar people and a variation is to add a handful of clear noodles.