My Myanmar Identity
a person who does not belong to a particular organization or profession.
||stranger, visitor, non-member, odd man out
In a previous post
I talked about my move to Yangon and how comfortable it is for me to be in the city where everyone seems be a newcomer or a member of a minority group. At first this made me feel quite welcome but the more time I spend here the more I’m starting to feel like an outsider looking in. I had an interesting conversation with someone in today’s cooking class at Harmoneat
(where I’m volunteering) as he seemed to understand/relate to how I may feel. I would describe him as a mixed race African- American. He lives in Bangkok and has travelled and lived all over South East Asia. So I guess he’s had similar experiences to draw from. So it’s got me thinking…
In Yangon there are many ‘international volunteers’ who are living and working as expats whether for a few months or a few years. I somehow don’t see myself falling into this group of people as I see myself as being on a ‘working holiday’. Being ethinically Chinese and having a British accent confuses people wherever I travel. I’ve found that members of the local population would rather see me as ‘Chinese’ than ‘British’. Yet when I travel to China, more specifically Hong Kong, I’m seen as a foreigner there too! 😀
In Myanmar I am often mistaken for a local, by foreigners as well as locals. This can be quite amusing but is becoming a bit tedious. For example on a long distance bus journey we stopped as an immigration checkpoint, and despite me being the only foreigner on the bus, a typically Chinese looking family had their passports checked. I just blended in with the locals, with the guy sitting next to me giggling away and poking me in the ribs exclaiming something in Burmese (which of course I did not understand!) but he knew I was foreign.
On the other hand I have difficulty mixing with fellow travellers. Often tourists assume I’m a local and don’t attempt to talk to me so I always have to make the first move to start a conversation. This takes a lot of effort sometimes as I’m quite an introvert! On one particular occassion I joined a group of 7 other people on a tour in the back of a tuk tuk and noone spoke to me for about half an hour as they assumed I was a local. It was early in the morning and I couldn’t be bothered to strike up a conversation so stayed quiet. But if I hadn’t spoken up on our first stop off point I’m sure I would have been ignored for the whole trip…
Often when locals speak to me in local language and I respond in English and they look surprised and slightly embarrassed. That makes me feel bad because it’s not their fault I don’t speak the language…
Anyway, just some thoughts that are going through my head today. No doubt I’ll feel differently in a few more weeks! Being in a new city is always difficult at first, finding my way is part of the adventure…
Burmese Tomato Salad
Burmese Tomato Salad
Three weeks into my stay in Yangon, Myanmar (Burma) I’ve settled in and have tried lots of new recipes. I’m attempting to build up a good all-round knowledge of local foods so I can recreate them when I eventually return home.
One thing that stands out about my stay in Yangon is the incredible heat! It’s so hot that if you go outside between the hours of 8am to 5pm, its like asking for a bucket of water to be thrown at you with the amount you end up sweating! Eugh! The infrastrusture of this emerging economy is also in it’s infancy so frequent power cuts happen. Often large businesses will have back up generators but where I am currently volunteering (a social enterprise) such luxuries are not within easy reach. It doesnt happen too often so I shouldn’t complain! 🙂
With it being so hot, I find my appetite has lessened and I often don’t feel hungry. Rice and noodles are the staple diet here but often eating hot meals is the last thing on my mind. So the delicious Burmese salads are always a light meal choice to turn to. Back home I found that having a salad at lunch time did not keep me full for long, so I often added some protein (usually chicken) and avocado or cheese to bulk it out. Here dairy is not used in the traditional diet and good cheese is expensive and hard to find.
I could eat this tomato salad every day, three times a day if I could! The fried onions and garlic and the peanuts add texture and a creaminess to the salad whilst the tomatoes, coriander and lime juice add freshness. It’s a perfect combination and keeps me full for a long time…
Burmese Tomato Salad
- 4 fresh tomatoes (halved and thinly sliced)
- small bunch fresh coriander (chopped)
- small handful of fried onions
- smal handful of fried garlic
- quartre of a white cabbage (finely sliced)
- small handful of roasted peanuts (lightly pounded)
- Juice of one lime
- 1 tsp peanut oil
- 1 tsp fish sauce (leave out if you want to make it vegetarian)
- Mix all the ingredients together just before you want to eat it, simple! 😀
A lot of Myanmar salads seem to have the same base ingredients, try this salad with some slices of deep fried tofu added (tofu salad). It is another amazing light salad to try out.
Easy Banana and Chocolate Cake (using cups, not scales!)
Banana and Dark Chocolate Cake
I’ve been in Yangon for a week now, and feeling settled enough to start baking cakes. (Inspired by the bunch of extremely ripe bananas bought from the market yesterday morning) As I couldn’t carry all my kitchen equipment with me, I decided to make do with measuring cups. I usually use scales to weigh ingredients but all those recipes that use cups must be working, otherwise who would carry on using them?
Before I left the UK, I spent some time researching some basic recipes using few ingredients that I could play around with. I have access to a small electric oven that sits on a counter top. It’s temperature dial has faded away, so its a guess on how hot it is! I figured that most ovens go up to 250 degrees C so somewhere near the top would be fine!
Since arriving in Myanmar, I’ve been experiencing frequest power cuts. Mainly when there is a thunderstorm. The first day I arrived there was no electric from 7-11pm and it was sweltering without aircon in this tropical climate. Today it happened ten minutes after the cake went into the oven! 😱
What a disaster, the poor cake! Sitting there and waiting for the power to come was murder… Luckily it was only out for 15 minutes! The cake survived, if a little flatter than it should have been…
2 mashed bananas
3/4 cup sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
1 beaten egg
1.5 cups all purpose flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
1 cup melted butter/oil
Handful of chocolate chips
Mix all wet ingredients together
Mix all dry ingredients together
Mix it all up into a cake batter then bake for 20 to 25 minutes at 200 degrees C
Cool on a rack and eat!
Banana and Chocolate Chip Cake
So it didn’t turn out too bad in the end. The next challenge is how to bake a cake in a rice cooker… These are much more common than ovens in Myanmar so I’m hoping to test out some recipes to make baking cakes accessible to more people! If you have any tried and tested recipes for rice cooker cake, please comment with the link! Cheers! 😁