Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Khao Suey



While making bhel puri this weekend for two consecutive parties, I was reminded of the last time I made khao suey. They share some of the same ingredients, and the fixins are all combined right before consuming. In Bombay and all over India, the chaatwalla has his own unique ratio and formula for bhel puri that is mixed right in front of the customer and rolled up in a newspaper cone to be enjoyed in the streets. For khao suey, the cook prepares the fixins and spreads them out on the table for the guest to customize the ratio of ingredients as they dine. Like bhel puri there is always cilantro, lime, toasted nuts, and hot chilis. But also, just like bhel puri, there are a wide range of other fixens to add to the mix. Most khao suey is served with soft boiled egg, fried shallots, fried garlic, fish sauce and/or soy sauce, and always long egg noodles to add to the broth.
The broth is a nourishing curried chicken soup. At ACE (Academy of Culinary Education) the two top students and I prepared a Khao Suey feast.


We cut fresh lime leaf and lemongrass from the ACE/Cidade de Goa garden near the beach for our chicken stock.


We used the roots, seeds, stems and leaves of the coriander plant (cilantro) for the broth.


We also had shaved red onions (more common than yellow or white onions in India, and probably burma too) and spring onions and we toasted some coconut and used the coconut shells to serve some of the fixins which sat on a banana leaf. I have never been to Myanmar (Burma), but it is one of my favorite types of cuisine. I first tried khao suey when a coworker brought me a bowl with all the fixins for lunch. I fell in love with the flavors and textures right away. The best khao suey I have ever had is at Bamra's in Candolim, Goa. The chef is great. Everything from scratch, handmade, tropical outdoor beach shack environment, super fresh food (the eggs for khao suey seem to be soft boiled to order, not hard boiled in advance) and the tunes are always great. Another true Soul Cocina. Try the suckling pig belly or the homemade fried tofu. Bamra's also has great lahpet thouk, preserved green tea salad. They make khao suey every Wednsday night. If you can't make it to Goa, try Burma Superstar on Clement street in San Francisco or Larkin Express on Larkin street in San Francisco.

Chef Pretem and Desiree found bliss and happiness in their khao suey. It was nice to make this Burmese dish in India, because all of the ingredients grow locally. Instead of opening a can of coconut milk, we squeezed our own milk from fresh coconuts. The vegetables, spices, and chicken (Stay tuned for the chicken movie ..coming Fall 2007 exclusively at soulcocina.com) were all local.



It was a good day for me too. I saw a peakock under a clothes line in my neighborhood after the feast.


Tune: Hurry Back Good News by Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown from Peacock Records
Clarence Gatemouth Brown was born in Luisiana (which has the highest soul cocinas per capita of all US states) and grew up in Texas. He played a bunch of instruments and made good old fashioned swamp music until the 60's when he quit music and moved to New Mexico to become a deputy sheriff. Then he returned to music in the 70's and toured Europe a bunch of times. He moved back to Luisiana where his home was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. He died a month later in 2005.

Video: Katrina Clap (Dollar Day) by Mos Def

Video: W Don't Care by The Legendary K.O.

Here are some Burmese songs to go with your Khow Suey.

Tune: My Darling's Love Arrow from the Princess Nicotine compilation from Sublime Frequencies records.
Watch a clip from the 1909 film that this compilation takes it name from here.

Tune: Nan Pohn Sah from Guitars of the Golden Triangle also from Sublime frequencies



I love the vocals on both of the Burmese songs, even though I have no idea what they are singing about. When I would play this music early in the wee hours of the morning at Citizen Cake a few years ago, when the bread bakers would pull the final batch of bread out of the oven and roll their bikes out into the cold streets of the Hayes Valley dawn while we began to whip our merengues for lemon tarts, the voices coming from the bakery boom box would sooth me into a focused day of sugar, flour, chocolate, eggs, fruit, and butter. Most of the crew did not appreciate the singing as much as I did. What do you think? Here is part of a 1965 letter from Jimi Hendrix to his poppa, talking about the singing voice:


"Nowadays people don't want you to sing good. They want you to sing sloppy and have a good beat to your songs. That's what angle I'm going to shoot for. That's where the money is. So just in case about three or four months from now you might hear a record by me which sounds terrible, don't feel ashamed, just wait until the money rolls in because every day people are singing worse and worse on purpose and the public buys more and more records"


So I leave you with a Jimi Hendrix song with someone else singing-
Tune: Drop it Like it's Hendrix