Route 79 : Burmese Curry

The effects of feeling hungry on the way home


November 30 2003

Burmese Curry

Well - I had a go at cooking a Burmese style chicken curry.

Thanks to Lisa at Burnt Toast for pointing this particular combination out (she having just come back from an adventure holiday in Burma recently.)

I have to admit that cooking this dish was very much an Indian/Chinese “fusion” experience: it’s effectively a Punjabi-style chicken dish - but without tomatoes or peppers - and instead: coconut milk and besan (gram flour) with a dash of Thai fish sauce at the finish.

Here is a Route79-style illustrated guide to cooking this exquisite dish:

First prepare all the ingredients:

8 medium-size chicken thighs - no bone - no skin - chopped into bite-size chunks.
2 medium onions - sliced relatively finely.
400ml of chicken broth. I made this from a Marks and Spencer concentrate jar - although you could just use Oxo or “bouillon” chicken cubes.
100ml of coconut milk - I made this from “Rajah creamed coconut” bar - chopping off a chunk and dissolving it in warm water.
3 tablespoons of gram flour (which is ground chick-pea flour - otherwise called “besan”).
1 chunk of pre-pulped garlic. (See a previous recipe where I explain what these pre-pulped garlic and ginger pieces are.)
1 chunk of pre-pulped ginger.
1 cinnamon stick (otherwise known as dal-chini) slit into two pieces.
2 bay leaves. (Did you know that bay leaf is the leaf of the “laurel” tree? The leaves of this tree were considered holy in the days of the Roman Empire - and were used to “crown” honoured people - hence the laurel wreath and hence the term “resting on your laurels”.)
Spices: Ground coriander, garam masala, chillie, salt, turmeric.
A bottle of Thai fish sauce - just a few drops needed for this dish.

Fry the onions in some vegetable oil for a few minutes - until they are translucentish. Then add the spices - a teapoon of turmeric, a teaspoon of chillie powder, a teaspoon of salt, 2 teaspoons of coriander and 2 teaspoons of garam masala. Stir well.

Once the onions/spice mixture has been stirred well - add the chopped chicken thigh pieces - and stir fry on high heat:

Thoroughly coat the chicken in the onion/spice mixture - until the chicken has gone “rubbery”. Then add the pre-prepared chicken broth, as well as the bay leaves and cinnamon stick pieces:

Simmer the pot for around 20 minutes. Whilst that is simmering - add about half-glass of warm water to the gram flour powder and stir until all lumps are out. Sieve through a tea-strainer to make sure you remove all lumps of clumped gram flour - and then pour into chicken pot. Stir and then pour in the coconut milk. Stir thoroughly - at this point the pot should be thickening a bit. Keep stirring until you get to a consistent simmer. Leave it simmering with lid off for another 30 mins.

After the 30 mins of simmering - add a few drops of Thai fish sauce from the bottle and stir thoroughly:

Taste to ensure that there’s enough salt - and add some if needed. Stir thoroughly.

Turn off the heat - and it’s done! Serve on a bed of freshly-cooked rice noodles - or else (as in my case) on a bed of freshly-cooked Basmati rice.


I really enjoyed cooking that - the coconut milk, gram flour and fish sauce add a completely different dimension to the sort of North Indian cooking that I’m used to - but I certainly will be cooking something like this again!

Have you tried this? Even if you haven't - let me know what you think!
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