|A Myanmar Rice Meal
| The Myanmar takes two
rice meals a day, that is, not counting the breakfast, the rice he takes with
boiled peas and a dash of sesamum oil. It does not count, because it-is not
taken with curries as accompaniment. The simplest rice meal is boiled rice with
a sprinkling of oil and salt; infants are initiated to solids with soft boiled
rice, a few drops of oil and salt. This simple fare can be tasty especially
with long-grained Pathein rice. Young mothers sing as they tenderly feed the
children with morsels of rice:
| Oh! Moon king of the
skies, Give my child rice sprinkled with oil Dished on solid gold tray!
| Children pick up the song
and they sing to the moon at night with their hearts full of hope for tomorrow
when they will have a plate of hot steaming rice with a mouthwatering aroma of
| A simple fare of rice and
dish of salted fish toasted on open fire again with a dash of sesamum oil is a
welcome sight to the convalescent who had had to lead a blameless life of
liquids for days.
| The main rice meal of the
day can be elaborate. Soup, thin and clear with green vegetables thrown in, is
a must; a dish or two of fish or prawns or meat or poultry depending on the
means of the family and of course, on the mood of the cook, as well.
| The art of taking a
Myanmar rice meal is in itself and art, because it calls for leisure and a
relaxed state of mind. One cannot do justice to a rice meal if one is in a
hurry, or if one's mind is not wholly on the business of eating.
| All the dishes are put on
the table. The Myanmar table is circular and only ten or twelve inches off the
floor. People sit on small mats round the table.
|Respect for the seniors
| Younger members of the
family put a little token morsel of rice and curry in the dish of the senior
members as a sign of respect. Then each takes a helping of rice and heaps it on
the plate. A spoonful of soup is 'taken to whet the appetite. Then follows a
bit of curry just enough to mix with a little rice which is daintily carried
with fingers to the lips. Soup acts as a chaser.
| Small portions of rice
are mixed with the curries, in such a way that each portion tastes different.
One can try many variations, just a little bit of fish and a few bits of
vegetables for this time, and then another with a generous helping of gravy
from the curry, so on and so forth. The more there are different dishes, the
more varieties one can try.
| One of the most enjoyable
rice meals I ever had was the one I had at a vegetable farm on the outskirts of
the town. There under the cool shade of a gourd creeper pergola from whence
hung gigantic gourds, we had our rice meal.
|An unforgettable rice meal
| Rice was steaming hot, so
was the prawn soup into which slices of freshly picked gourd were thrown in
with a flavouring of ginger. The star dish was ngapi -yay-gyo, fish sauce. It
is a special kind; varieties of fish are salted and packed in jars for a
specified length of time. The fish retain their shape but they are so seasoned
tender that all the bones fall apart when boiled in a cup of water; the sauce
is thick and it gives out such an aroma that one feels like gulping it down
| The sauce is put through
the sieve so that it is free from bones. There are some ingredients to be
added. Even as the sauce is boiling, dry chillies are put through a skewer and
toasted on open fire; care must be taken not to burn them black. Cloves of
garlic, an onion or two are toasted just enough to take away the rawness. Green
chillies may be added if one likes it extra hot.
| The chillies, garlic and
onions are pounded into a paste and added to the fish sauce. By the dish of
fish sauce is a large plate of tow-sa-yar, vegetable snippets to be dipped in
fish sauce. On that occasion, I remember, there were on less than twenty
varieties; celery, lettuce, long beans, water cress boiled in tamarind pulp,
young mangoes and lots of roots and fruits I could not name.
| I put one of the
vegetable snippets on my rice portion and topped it with a large spoonful of
fish sauce. In went the rice down my throat, hot and spicy. I made
noises-shee-shee-shoo-shoo-, I gulped down a spoonful of soup and sighed
| I tried different
vegetable snippents with each mouthful of rice. There were no social graces;
the air was thick with the noises of shee-shee-shoo-shoo-shoo-and glug-glug.
| It was a rice meal I
shall never forget!