Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

October 23, 2017

© Richard Jung

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Peanut and rice porridge

Smooth on the tongue and rich-tasting, this porridge is a puree of peanuts and rice. Some people order rice noodles topped with the porridge as a sauce, along with condiments like shallot oil, soy sauce and fresh herbs. Others use it as the base of their morning bowl, topped with meat sauce, blanched pea tendrils and various condiments. It’s great on chilly days, even as a substitute for plain rice with supper.


1 c. (250 ml) raw peanuts, in their papery skins, rinsed
5 c. (1.25 L) water
1 c. (250 ml) jasmine or other long-grain tender white rice
1½ tsp. (7.5 ml) salt, or to taste
1 tbsp. (15 ml) peanut oil
2 tbsp. (30 ml) shallot oil (recipe follows), or to taste
soy sauce (optional)


Possible toppings
1 c. (250 ml) coriander leaves
2 c. (500 ml) pea tendrils, blanched in boiling water for 1 to 2 minutes, coarsely chopped
Kachin salsa or tart-sweet chili-garlic sauce (recipes follow)
red chili oil (recipe follows)
chopped roasted peanuts
toasted sesame seeds


Place the peanuts in a wide heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid, add 3 c. (750 ml) of the water and bring to a vigorous boil over medium-high heat. Cover, lower the heat to maintain a steady low boil and cook until the peanuts are tender, about 1 hour. Meanwhile wash the rice in several changes of water.

When the peanuts are tender, add the rice and salt, along with enough water to cover by 1½ inches (3.75 cm). Stir and raise the heat to bring back to a boil, then cover, lower the heat to maintain a simmer, and cook for 20 minutes, or until the rice is tender.

Turn out into a food processor and process to a smooth puree. (You may have to work in batches.) Transfer back to the pot, add hot water as necessary to give it a soft texture and stir in the peanut oil. (You can make this ahead and then reheat just before serving; the mixture thickens as it stands, so you’ll want to add another ½ cup (125 ml) or more of water and stir it in as you’re heating.)

Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the shallot oil, then taste for seasoning and add salt or soy sauce if you wish. You don’t want it highly seasoned because this porridge — like plain rice — is meant to be a neutral background to other flavours. Serve with the toppings of your choice. Makes 5 cups (1.25 L); serves 4 to 6.

Shallot oil

Here you get two staples in one: crispy fried shallots and delicious shallot oil. You can use both to flavour salads or drizzle shallot oil on freshly cooked greens or onto soups.

The trick with fried shallots is to cook them slowly, so they give off their moisture and get an even golden brown without any blackened patches. Once cool, they crisp up.


1 c. (250 ml) peanut oil
2 c. (500 ml) (about 1/2 lbs./230 g) thinly sliced Asian or European shallots


Place a wide heavy skillet or wok over medium-high heat and add the oil. Toss in a slice of shallot. As the oil heats, it’ll rise to the surface, sizzling lightly. When it does, add the rest and lower the heat to medium. (The shallots may seem crowded, but they’ll shrink.)

Stir frequently with a wooden spoon or a spider. If they brown in the first 5 minutes, lower the heat a little more. After 10 minutes, they should start to color. Continue to cook, stirring to prevent sticking, until they’re golden, 3 minutes more.

Line a plate with paper towels. Use tongs or a spider to lift the fried shallots out of the oil, shake off excess oil into the pan, then place on the paper towel. Blot gently with another towel. Separate any clumps and toss a little, then let air-dry 5 to 10 minutes. If your kitchen is hot and humid, they may not crisp up, but the flavour will still be there.

Transfer to a dry glass jar. Once they’ve cooled completely, seal tightly. Transfer the oil to another dry jar, using all but the last of it, which will have some shallot debris. (Set aside for stir-frying.) Once cool, cover tightly and store in a cool dark place. Makes 1¼ cups (310 ml) fried shallots; ¾ cup (180 ml) oil.

Kachin salsa

Southeast Asian cooks know as well as Mexican cooks do how much flavour you can get from grilling vegetables before using them in salsas.

If you have Roma tomatoes, use them; if your tomatoes are juicier, the sauce will be a little runnier.


5 green cayenne chilies
3 medium tomatoes, preferably Roma (plum) or another fleshy variety
4 shallots, not peeled
1 tbsp. (15 ml) dried shrimp powder
¾ tsp. (3.75 ml) salt, or to taste


Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat.

Grill the chilies, tomatoes and shallots, turning to expose all the sides to the heat, until touched with black and very soft.

Peel off and discard any black areas or tough skin from the chilies and tomatoes. Cut off and discard the chili stems. Trim off the root ends of the shallots and remove the skins. Coarsely chop the chilies and shallots.

Place the chilies, tomatoes and shallots in a food processor, add the shrimp powder (store-bought or dried shrimp that’s been soaked for 10 minutes in water, drained and patted dry, then food processed) and salt, and pulse until is reduced to a chunky sauce. Taste for salt and adjust if necessary. Serve warm or at room temperature. Leftovers will keep, refrigerated, for 3 days. Makes 1 cup (250 ml).

Tart-sweet chili-garlic sauce

A standard hot sauce in Burma, this condiment is hot, tart with vinegar and a little sweet. Make it a day before you want to serve it because the sauce thickens and the flavours blend after a day.


1 c. (250 ml) packed dried red chilies
¾ c. (180 ml) water
¼ c. (60 ml) coarsely chopped garlic
¼ c. (60 ml) fish sauce
¼ c. (60 ml) sugar
¾ c. (180 ml) rice or apple cider vinegar


Break the chilies in half, break off the stems and empty out; if you wish, discard some seeds. Place in a small pot with the water. If your garlic is dried out, add it too.

Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, until the chilies are softened and have swelled up a little. If your garlic is fresh, add it in the last minute of cooking.

Combine the chilies and garlic with their liquid, the fish sauce and sugar in a food processor, and process to a coarse paste; scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the vinegar and process again.

Transfer to a dry glass jar and store in the refrigerator. It’ll keep for several weeks. Makes 1¾ cups (430 ml).

Red chili oil

Chili oil is quick to make and keeps well at room temperature. You’ll be happy to have it on hand to add a dash of heat to many dishes. It can also go on the table as a condiment so guests can drizzle a little on their soup or noodles.


1 c. (250 ml) packed dried red chilies, soaked in lukewarm water for 20 minutes
1 c. (250 ml) peanut oil


Drain the chilies, and remove and discard the stems. Put the chilies in a food processor and process to a coarse paste.

Pour the oil into a non-reactive pan and set over medium heat. Add the chili paste and bring to a bubbling boil, then remove from the heat and let stand until cooled to room temperature.

You can store the oil with the chilies in it, but in Burma the oil often is served on its own. For clear oil, drain the oil through a sieve into a dry glass jar and seal with the lid. Store away from heat and light. You can keep the chilies in another glass jar for a spicy condiment or discard them. Makes 1 cup (250 ml).

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