Four servings (as part of a main course)
Adapted from Burma: Rivers of Flavor (Artisan), by Naomi Dugiud
This is, indeed, a simple curry – not just in preparation, but in the results. Naomi Duguid advises to serve this curry with stir-fried bitter greens or rice, to compliment the silky shallots. I’d should add that this curry is portioned to be part of a meal, so if you plan to serve four people with it, make sure you have something to accompany it. Also, as she notes, Burmese cuisine isn’t as spiced or as highly seasoned as Thai and other cuisines, and condiments are added to the dish by diners, at the table. Some hot sauce, extra deep-fried shallots, chopped toasted peanuts, or even some powdered dried shrimp, would be nice to offer guests.
To make deep-fried shallots, heat some oil and add a generous handful of finely sliced (peeled) shallots – about 1/2 cup, cooking them in a few inches of hot oil until deep golden-brown, then scoop them out and let them cool on a rack or paper towel until crisp. They can be stored in a jar for a few days if you want to do them in advance.
1 pound (450 g) beef stewing meat, cut into 3/4-inch (2 cm) pieces
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon minced ginger (peeled)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons peanut oil
3 cups (.75l) water
2 teaspoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons fried shallots (see Note)
8 small shallots, peeled and left whole
1/2 teaspoon red chile powder
1. Mix the beef pieces in a bowl with the salt and turmeric, massaging the salt into the meat. Cover and chill for an hour.
2. Mash the ginger and garlic together in a mortar and pestle, if you have one. (If not, just chop them together until they’re as finely minced together as possible.) Heat the oil in a large open saucepan or wok over medium heat, then add the garlic and ginger and cook for a few minutes, stirring, until they’re soft and fragrant.
3. Turn the heat up to high and add the beef and cook, stirring and pressing the beef pieces against the side of the pan, until they’re cooked on all sides. Add the water and fish sauce, stir a few times, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, partially covered, for 1 hour. If the water evaporates during the cooking, add more so the pan isn’t dry.
4. Stir in the fried shallots, then add the whole shallots and chile powder. Cook with the lid ajar, stirring frequently, until the shallots are soft and the meat is tender, and the liquid is thickened – about 10 minutes or so.
Notes: If you don’t want to deep-fry the shallots, I would imagine that if you just cooked them in some oil in a skillet, until they were deep golden brown (stirring them constantly, and keeping an eye on them), they would work just as well in this recipe.
There is a recipe in the book for making Burmese-style chile powder. When I made this, I used Korean chile powder.