Burmese Language Lesson
- Pel Pin (paut) –> Bean Sprout
- Chin –> Sour
- Thote –> Salad
- Pel Pin Chin –> Pickled Bean Sprout
Beautifully and intricately constructed salads are a hallmark of Burmese cuisine. Burmese people’s love for their salads is evident in their everyday lives and every corner of the street. Burmese salads usually require an extensive list of ingredients, a bit of preparation and great patience. Making Burmese salads is a form of art where diverse elements, flavors and textures are juggled to create harmonious and exotic finish. There is no exact ratio of ingredients as salads are mixed and made according to your liking.
Choice of the main ingredient – whether it is meat, seafood, vegetable or noodles – defines if the salad is going to be put under the category of main dish or side dish or one-dish meal. No matter what category the salad falls under, the role of the big cast of supporting ingredients and condiments is eminent as they together decide how far contrasting and bold flavors will be delivered.
Vegetable salads are usually served as side dishes and the same applies to the pickled bean sprout salad in today’s case. Usually made tangy and zesty, veggie salads add bright flavors to traditional Burmese meals by counteracting rather oily and heavy Burmese curries. For this purpose, tart vegetables are used for salads and bland vegetables are pickled.
What is “Pel-Pin-Chin-Thote”?
Even though virtually flavorless, like in many East Asian countries, bean sprout features prominently in Burmese cuisines, in stir-fries, salads, soups and patties. Only after mingling with various kinds of condiments and ingredients such as garlic oil, fish sauce and lime juice, this salad shines bright on Burmese dining tables. Dominated by sour and pungent aroma and flavors, pickled bean sprout salad is probably fairly easy and simple to make. I omitted the chilies in the recipe, to give more spotlight to tartness, nuttiness and sweetness.
Ideally, bean sprouts are pickled using rice rinse water. Submerge bean sprouts in a mason jar with water that you rinse rice with and add salt. It usually takes 36-48 hours at room temperature for the pickled bean sprouts to be ready. But in today’s recipe, I will be making a fresh pickle by plunging the bean sprouts in the boiling vinegar water for 2 minutes.
The key agent that makes Pel-Pin-Chin-Thote flavorful and aromatic is the garlic oil. This fragrant condiment works magic when poured over the salad. While the heavenly-infused oil carries the flavor, the golden garlic chips give a toasty crunch.
Adding seafood or meat to the vegetable salad is not very traditional, but I added few shrimps to give out more sweetness and texture to the salad. By adding some solid chunks of proteins, this salad can be served with rice or perfectly eaten by itself.The usual protein used in vegetable salads is dried shrimp powder.
Serving: 3-4 persons
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
- 1 lb. bean sprouts
- 1/3 lb. head on, shell on fresh-water shrimp
- ¼ cup vinegar
- 4 cups of water
- 1 cup ice-cold water
- 4 tbsp. of peanut oil
- 4 garlic cloves
- Pinch of turmeric powder
- 1 onion
- 1.5 tbsp. of roasted peanuts
- 1 tbsp. of toasted sesame seeds
- 3 tbsp. of fish sauce
- 1 tsp. of lime juice
Boiling the shrimp
- Bring 4 cups of water to boil and season the water with 2 tbsp. of fish sauce.
- Drop the raw fresh-water shrimp into the boiling water. When the shrimps turn pink and start surfacing, they are ready to be removed from boiling water. This can take about 3-6 minutes depending on the size of the shrimp. Mine took about 4 minutes.
- Drain and shock the shrimp in ice-cold water to stop the cooking process. This will prevent the shrimp from becoming rubbery.
- Shrimp heads and shells contribute a depth of flavor. Therefore, only after boiling the shrimps, take the heads off, discard the shells and devein.
Quick-pickling bean sprouts
- To the water that the shrimps were boiled in, add ¼ cup vinegar. The water is already seasoned with fish sauce as well as all the sweet juices from the shrimp.
- Once the water starts to boil, plunge the bean sprouts into the pot and cook them for 2 minutes. We are aiming for the texture somewhat tender but still a bit crunchy. If it is too raw, it will not absorb all the flavors from the seasonings and if it is too soft, it will be very mushy.
- When done, drain the water, gently squeeze the sprouts to remove excess water and let them cool off.
Making garlic oil
- First, peel and roughly chop the garlic cloves.
- Heat a skillet over medium heat and add the peanut oil. Once the oil is heated, add the chopped garlic.
- Stir gently and every so often to ensure even browning and to avoid the garlic from getting burnt and bitter.
- A pinch of turmeric powder is added to give the oil a bright golden color.
- When the garlic start to turn into light golden brown color, turn the heat off and continue stirring. The residual heat will continue to cook and darken the garlic little more. Then let the garlic oil cool.
- We will only use about 1.5 tbsp. of oil and 1 tbsp. of fried garlic bits. The rest can be stored in an airtight container for later use.
- Half and thinly chop the onion.
- Pound the peanuts till fine and powdery.
- Slice the lime and squeeze a teaspoon of lime juice.
Mix and serve!
- In a mixing bowl, toss beansprouts, onions and shrimps with 1½ tbsp. of garlic infused oil, 1 tbsp. of fish sauce, lime juice and peanut powder till all the components are thoroughly mixed. Transfer the salad to a plate.
- Sprinkle sesame seeds and garnish with a tablespoon of golden garlic crisps. Serve with rice.
- All the preps can be done ahead of the time but mixing just before serving is suggested.
Best food accompaniment: Light, peppery or spicy soups