Sunday, January 14, 2018

Bagan Cooking Class

The highlight for us today was our morning cooking class that we had signed up for as an enrichment activity. I mean, you can only see so many temples before you need something of a change, at least temporarily. 

We met our teacher, May, the owner of Pennywort Cooking Class, at the front of her village's morning wet market. At home we'd know this to be the local farmers market. 

She walked us through the market pointing out all the different types of vegetables and fruits and then led us to another section in the back where there were stalls of people selling chicken, pork and fish of all kinds. There were 6 of us. Along with Karen, Joanne and I, there was a young woman from Melbourne and two young women from Barcelona. Simone, from Melbourne, is a vegan for ethical reasons, so she stayed behind while the rest of us forayed through the stalls displaying whole dead plucked chickens, watched butchers hacksaw through pork necks (Snort stayed in the van for this outing), and marveled at the beautiful fish available - shrimp, tilapia, catfish, to name a few. 

We selected chicken, pork and shrimp to be our meat dishes. Then May gave us each a basket and some money and sent us back to the vegetable area and had us buy three vegetables each, two of which should be something we'd never had before. It was a little daunting but fun. 

We selected pumpkin, large carrot-size radish, wing beans, eggplant, okra (yuck), corn, large scallion chives, and a bunch of others I cannot remember. 

Once we were done at the market we walked a to a tea shop nearby to enjoy a cup of tea infused with condensed milk and enjoyed some little donuts. There are tons of these sidewalk tea houses all across the country. It was fun to get to experience one. 

Then, it was a few blocks to May's house and we set up outside on her back patio. Two long tables were set up with round tree trunk slabs as cutting boards, and a row of hibachi-like charcoal cooking stoves lined the edge of the patio ground. 

She set us to work peeling, dicing, slicing, chopping and mixing. Our main base for spices and aromatics was garlic, ginger and onions, although their onions are what we know as shallots. 

One by one we combined ingredients and began cooking dishes. Some dishes we made cold - these would become our salads. 

May's sister helped us along by making steamed rice and adding broth to our dishes to help them cook properly. Everything came together and we ended up sitting down to our "feast" of about a dozen dishes. 

For the salads we had a tamarind salad, a pennywort salad and a tea leaf salad, all three of which are very popular in Myanmar. My favorite is the tea leaf salad. It has fermented tea leaves, garlic, ginger, tomatoes, sesame oil and peanuts. It's soooooo good!!

May has promised us the dishes and recipes via email. A good amount of her earnings goes to help build and expand the library system in her community, a worthy cause. 

It was a fun morning!!

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