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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 sesamum oil.
     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 like tea.
     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 happily.
     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!
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