Cast Iron

Burmese Tomato Salad

July 31, 2018
Photo by Promilaa Bhatia
Author Notes

This recipe with its roots in Burma, learnt at my grandmother's knee, was a favorite growing up. From juicy fresh tomatoes to nutty toasted chickpea flour (besan) to crisp-fried and seasoned tiny dried shrimp, every ingredient in this dish comes together to pack a wallop of umami in every bite. Totally addictive, it easily serves 2 as a side with a protein of choice or as a meal by itself for 1. —Promilaa Bhatia

  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 10 minutes
  • Serves 2
Ingredients
  • 250 grams tomatoes (approx. 2-3 medium), cut into bite size chunks
  • 1 shallot, medium, thinly sliced
  • 20 grams garlic, peeled
  • 5 grams green chilis (Thai bird chilis), roughly chopped
  • 15 grams roasted peanuts (Planters work just fine), coarsely crushed. Choose your weapon to crush: mortar and pestle, rolling pin, can of soup.
  • 1-2 kaffir lime leaves, finely sliced into hair-like shreds
  • 1 handful cilantro, leaves and stems, chopped
  • 1/2 tablespoon chickpea flour (also called gram flour or besan), toasted. Easily found in Indian stores, Asian stores, or other specialty stores.
  • 2 tablespoons "tep say an lien" or crisp-fried, seasoned tiny shrimp (easily found in Asian stores in the ready to eat snacks aisle)
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil or vegetable oil
  • Pinch kosher salt to taste
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. This recipe calls for a 1/2 tablespoon of toasted chickpea flour but I always toast a larger quantity and store because it has infinite uses. Begin by toasting 1/2 a cup of chickpea flour in a cast iron pan or skillet set on medium heat. Keep stirring every 2 minutes or so. At the 7-8 minute mark, it'll start to change color and your nose will start to pick up a wonderful, nutty aroma. At this point, stir every 30 seconds or so for an additional 3-4 minutes, until it resembles the color of finely powdered graham crackers. Remove pan off the heat and let cool. Store in an airtight container and use in Burmese-style vegetable salads or as a thickener/base in soups and curries.
  2. Next, put garlic and green chilis in a blender and pulse a couple of times to get a chunky mix with easily distinguishable pieces of garlic and chili; at no point should it become a paste.
  3. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a small wok and cook the garlic-chili blend in it until it turns an even golden brown. Carefully remove the fried garlic-chili blend gently pressing against the side of the wok as you do, so as to leave most of the oil in the wok.
  4. Wait for the wok to cool down a bit. Next, add a 1/2 tablespoon of toasted chickpea flour into the residual oil in the wok and stir it in to instantly form an emulsified dressing of sort. Follow with tomatoes, shallot, kaffir lime leaves, and cilantro and give it a good mix. At this point, you can stick it into the refrigerator for a couple of hours until ready to eat.
  5. This salad can be enjoyed at room temperature or cold. Remember to salt only when ready to eat. After salting, garnish with fried garlic-chili blend, crushed peanuts, and crisp-fried dried shrimp.

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