Cast Iron

Burmese Tomato Salad

July 31, 2018
3 Ratings
Photo by Promilaa Bhatia
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 10 minutes
  • Serves 2
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

What You'll Need
  • 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
  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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Stephanie B.
    Stephanie B.
  • Promilaa Bhatia
    Promilaa Bhatia

4 Reviews

Promilaa B. September 6, 2018
And you can get a whole new salad just by changing out the main ingredient. Use thickly grated English or Persian cucumbers instead of tomatoes, omit the kaffir lime leaves, up the quantity of peanuts, and add a pinch of turmeric to the oil left over from frying the garlic-chili blend. Everything else remains unchanged. I like the cucumber version a little better.
Stephanie B. September 7, 2018
I'm lucky enough to live in a city where Southeast Asian ingredients are easy to find, so it's a pleasure to try recipes that are new to me :)

The cucumber variation sounds great too, good tip!
Promilaa B. September 6, 2018
Stephanie, thank you for the feedback. But, more importantly, thank you for trying a Burmese recipe. Burmese food is still unknown in many parts of the world and its many treasures can only be revealed the more people are willing to try recipes from this fantastic, yet unexplored, cuisine!
Stephanie B. September 4, 2018
This is delicious. It's a submission for the umami recipe contest and it packs a punch! But it's still light and refreshing. Hatch green chilies are everywhere where I live, so that's what I used instead of the Thai chilies. I also used a splash of tamari instead of salt to up the umami even more - I don't think the Hatch chilies or soy sauce hurt the recipe! All the flavors in this salad work so well together, right down the the tiny shrimp (which don't taste even a tiny bit fishy in the whole mix). And the whole thing is so fast to make! It's just a good recipe, thanks so much for sharing it!

PS I'm pretty sure toasted chickpea flour is going to become a staple in my kitchen.