More Off-beat Myanmar Foods

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High status delicacy - to some

All countries have special kinds of food that need cultivated taste. That is to say, it is the kind of food the uninitiated may forget the social graces and turn away from, wrinkling her nose at the funny smell.

In the West too, there are certain foods, a high status delicacy to some, but to others, well-er-not quite. Such foods usually involve too much preparation for wide scale commercial production and too perishable to travel. Consequently they stay strictly within the circle of local gourmets, not well known,to 'outsiders.'
One of the delicacies of Lower Myanmar or delta regions is fish sour and prawn sour. This food like Colommiers Demisel the hundreds of soft cheeses will not travel and therefore it is best eaten on location.
The season for this 'sour' is the last weeks of the monsoon and throughout the cold season. 'Prawn sour' is often preferred to 'fish sour,' because the taste and quality of the latter depends on the kind of fish it is made of.
Many varieties of fish-sour
There are many varieties of 'fish sour'; one of them the common and the most available kind is made of small fresh water fish. It is mixed with boiled rice and made into big lumps or packed in leaves. The big lumps are sliced and sold by the weight. The packed ones are favoured by the fastidious and hygiene-conscious people.
The best kinds of 'fish-sour' are nga-phe and nga-gyin. Nga-gyin-chin is made of chunks of white fish. Nga-phe-chin is tastier and it needs a more complicated process:

To make nga-phe-chin the flesh is scraped from nga-phe, white fresh water herring and the stuff is pounded to right consistency; it is then mixed with boiled rice and a dash of salt. The mixture is then moulded into 'cutlets' and packed in green banana leaves.
In Yangon markets, especially those near the waterfront, fish sour and prawn sour come straight from the steamers plying the delta towns. They are usually fresh and nice.
Fish Sour and prawn sour are also available in Bago, an hour and a half drive from Yangon. They are neatly packed in green banana leaves and they have labels to tell you the date when it will 'ferment sour' enough to be eaten.
Can be eaten raw
One of the beauties of this kind of 'sour foods,' is that they can be eaten raw, garnished with shredded onions, garlic, celery and lemon leaves and a dash of cooking oil.
If liked, they can be 'fried', that is, simmer shredded onions and garlic in heated oil over the fire and add fish or prawn sour. Serve immediately with the usual garnishes of celery and lemon leaves. Green chillies may be added if you like it hot.
It is a pity that the best kind of 'fish sour' and 'prawn sour' are not easily available here in Yangon. If you have relatives or friends in one of those delta towns, you just cajole them into sending you packets of this delicacy periodically.
Fish or prawn prepared in a special way is eaten raw in other lands too. Japanese and Scandinavians have similar foods. From the little I know of them, one thing is certain; one has to cultivate the taste for them, especially their smell!




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