Mint chicken: A Burmese stir-fry with border influences
If you’ve ever been to Yangon, you know that to eat Burmese food is to sample a range of culinary traditions, said Desmond Tan in Burma Superstar (Ten Speed Press). Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is bordered by five countries, and its cuisine borrows from neighboring cultures while maintaining its own distinctions. “It is savory, occasionally salty, sometimes sour, and often”—because of the frequent use of shrimp paste—“unapologetically funky.”
The recipe below, which requires no shrimp paste, is a Burmese-Chinese version of laap, the herby Thai minced meat dish. The minced chicken is stirfried with ground cumin and mustard seeds, ginger, garlic cloves, and a spoonful of sambal oelek—a blend of red chilies, brown sugar, and salt that can be found near the Sriracha in many Asian markets. You can turn this into a vegetarian dish by replacing the chicken with tofu—diced, then drained on paper towels and stir-fried.
Recipe of the week
Stir-fried chicken with mint
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
½ tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp black mustard seeds
2 tbsp sambal oelek
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp fish sauce
¼ tsp sugar
2 tbsp canola oil
7 small garlic cloves
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp minced ginger
2 Thai chilies or ½ jalapeño, sliced thinly
¼ cup chopped cilantro, plus sprigs for garnish
¼ cup chopped mint
Lime wedges, for garnish
To mince the chicken, place thighs smooth side up on a cutting board. With knife blade parallel to cutting board, slice each thigh in half width-wise, opening it up into two thin pieces. Cut chicken against the grain into thin strips, then chop strips finely until evenly minced.
In a skillet, toast cumin and mustard seeds until they pop, no more than 30 seconds. Transfer to a mortar with a pestle, and pound into a coarse powder.
In a small bowl, blend sambal oelek, soy sauce, fish sauce, and sugar. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Tilt pan so oil pools to one side, then add garlic cloves. Fry until light golden and soft, about 1 minute. Remove garlic cloves and reserve, leaving the oil.
Heat skillet over high heat. When oil is hot (not smoking), add minced garlic and ginger. Stir-fry for a few seconds and add the chicken, spreading it out evenly with a wooden spoon. After a minute, give pan a stir so chicken doesn’t stick together. Repeat this step until chicken is light brown in places and pale in others, about 3 minutes.
Add in the mustard-cumin powder, sambal mixture, fried garlic cloves, and chilies, stirring constantly, until liquid just lightly coats the meat. Mix in cilantro and mint. Garnish with cilantro sprigs, with lime wedges on the side. Serves 3.