Burma: Rivers of Flavor

Remember, as you read this, that butcher’s apprentices don’t live on innards alone. I am so excited that Naomi Duguid’s latest cookbook is nearly available –in fact, you can pre-order it at Amazon already. I took a peek at the book using the “look inside” link, and was thrilled to find a promising recipe using okra, which is the current darling of my garden.

A pale yellow okra blossom

Beautiful okra blossom

A few things about okra: First, I’m growing stunning okra right here in Vermont, way north of the Mason-Dixon line. Secondly, when a bone fide Southern Lady tells you that your okra pods are monstrous big and almost certainly inedible, take the hint and harvest more frequently. No bigger than the average middle finger. Before I learned this lesson, I tried deep-frying some huge pods which I’d thinly sliced. They tasted deliciously of okra, but the texture was twiggy, straw-like, and splintery: don’t try to emulate my stubborn ways or you may do permanent damage to your hard palate .. Thirdly –prettiest flowers ever! Next year I’ll be growing more Clemson’s Spineless, a nice green okra, as well as the stunning red ones that Naomi turned me on to yesterday.

Every culture that uses okra has two basic ways to eat okra –either as a vegetable thickener for stews (think gumbo) or fried. I haven’t tried okra in a stew, because I’m loving all the fried versions I’m cooking up these days.
The Burmese recipe Naomi offers in her cookbook is warmly seasoned, beautifully golden from being sizzled in turmeric, and deliciously savory with a mess of fried shallots.

strainer of okra pods and some sliced pods

Slicing the okra

Not only are the flowers dramatically beautiful, the pods themselves are studies in gorgeous botanical design.

close-up of sliced okra pod

Okra pod beauty shot

I love how golden the peanut oil and shallots get from the bit of turmeric in the recipe.

sizzling shallots in turmeric-yellow peanut oil

sizzling shallots in turmeric-yellow peanut oil

I was running around like a crazy woman getting ready to leave for Scrabble club; this okra dish, a bit of rice, and some spicy beef & green tomato stir-fry, and garlicky naan, of course, were the makings of my Scrabble club dinner.

Sliced okra and a cooling garlicky naan bread

Sliced okra and a cooling garlicky naan bread

Then there was an unexpected and delightful visit from a pair of monks out on an impromptu road-trip. I and my cat, Mouse, entertained them mightily as I rushed around getting ready to take off for Brattleboro .

I think I might adjust my timing with regard to when I add the okra so that I can get a tiny bit more crispiness on the okra without risking over-browning the shallots. I’ll get it right next time. The bottom line: this is my absolute favorite okra recipe, and would be enough reason to keep on growing the pods. Mmm!

Burmese okra & shallots, nearly cooked

Burmese okra & shallots, just about finished frying

This dish is also a tantalizing promise that Naomi’s latest cookbook is going to provide years of thrilling cooking. I’m not exaggerating: the book that introduced me to the deeply researched, gorgeously evoked, and gracefully authentic recipes which are the hallmarks of Naomi’s food writing, was Hot Sour Salty Sweet: A Culinary Journey Through Southeast Asia. That cookbook was a revelation on so many levels, and I’ve absorbed so much of who I am as a cook and a lover of food today from it.


About mosaica

Ugly & fabulous, warm & obsessive, brilliant & dorkmeisterish: striving to be a warrior in her little context.
This entry was posted in books, friends, vegetables and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Burma: Rivers of Flavor

  1. stuart itter says:

    Bravo. Great taste. Great cooking. Great writing. Great photos. Great. stuart itter, londonderry vt. I went back to the Londonderry farmers market after reading your blog to buy okra (both red and green, the size of the third finger.) Mark, owner of Woodcock Farms, said he met you at a show and bought your book. Thinks well of all of this. Cheers.

  2. mosaica says:

    Thanks for the friendly words, Stuart! Just to clarify –I didn’t write this terrific cookbook or take any of those pictures, I just cooked Naomi’s recipe and took pictures of my process, which was pretty chaotic 🙂 If you’re ever passing through Hartland, VT on a Friday (until September 28), please stop by and say hi at the Hartland Farmer’s Market.

  3. vtbee says:

    okay, i confess that i am a recent convert to okra. iliana, between your incredible cooking and naomi’s incredibly helpful book, my okra world is expanding! thank you!

  4. Ryan says:

    Your pictures are always so beautiful. Thanks for making me smile, I need it today. 🙂

    • mosaica says:

      Thanks Ryan 🙂 I’ve been very out of the loop this summer (market & gardens kicking my ass), but I did make a pot roast pig’s head for supper last night. Made me think of that great marathon of cooking that you streamed. That was a GREAT night 🙂

  5. Nanny Ogg says:

    Love the okra pics! It is so perfect looking!


  6. alison says:

    love the okra blossom! veggies have wonderful flowers! reminds me to post a watercolor card i did of my cucumber plant from last summer

  7. Jeez, Louise! You never told me you had this amazing blog! Speak up! You, my Scrabble Sister, have many talents. Your photography I did not know about. What exquisite photos! Have you thought about becoming a food photographer? If I ever write a cookbook, I’m hiring YOU for my photographer!

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