Busy doctors and supper club hosts Amy and Emily Chung describe the flavours of Myanmar, having recently written their new recipe book The Rangoon Sisters: Recipes from our Burmese family kitchen.

This World Cuisine article has been adapted from the Autumn 2020 edition of Optimum Nutrition.


What particularly impressed you about food in Myanmar?

“The food was just absolutely delicious and we just couldn’t get enough of it. The familiar flavours that we had grown up with, combined with the heat, hustle and bustle, and the reality of finally being there – it was a joy!

We also learnt to appreciate just how varied the cuisine is throughout the country and loved discovering dishes we had never tried before.”

What is your favourite street food?

“That’s quite a hard question as Burmese cuisine includes a lot of great street food. But if we had to pick one it would probably be mohinga (fish noodle soup) because it is the national dish of Myanmar.

“It’s an aromatic fish broth served with rice vermicelli noodles topped with egg, chilli, lime, coriander and a crispy chana daal cracker for added texture – and we would get a few extra crackers to take away, to snack on during the day!

“You will find it everywhere, usually served up in the morning for a hearty breakfast. We think it makes for a great start to the day.”

Mohinga: fish noodle soup

What was your favourite traditional Burmese food when growing up?

“Ohn-no khuak swe (coconut chicken noodles) is one that really resonates as a dish associated with our own family celebrations and also now as a supper club favourite.

“It combines a rich, chicken coconut soup with noodles, served with lime for added tartness, extra chilli and these very moreish crispy fried noodles. It’s a dish that is easy to make and could be served up for a midweek dinner but equally suitable for a celebration.”

What would you cook for guests?

“We would lay out a big spread of several dishes on the dining table, ready to be shared by everyone.

“To start we would have some crispy fried chickpea tofu to snack on, with a spicy tamarind dip.

“Then there would be some curries such as our grandma’s spare rib and daal, pumpkin curry, alongside some stir fried garlicky vegetables, a fresh vibrant salad like gin thoke (ginger salad) and a mixed vegetable platter with some sour spicy dipping sauces.

“Of course there would be steamed rice too!”

Oh no khao swe: chicken and coconut noodle soup

What role do you think good nutrition plays in Burmese cuisine?

“Burmese cuisine uses a huge variety of fresh ingredients which is reflected in the recipes in our cookbook.

“We love to visit the markets which are heaving with colourful fruit and vegetables, and in Myanmar there are lots of regional specialities based on what is grown and sourced in that area – really making the most of brilliant, fresh produce.”

What would be an easy autumn supper?

“One of our curries such as ame hnat (beef curry) or khayan thee hin (pumpkin curry) because they are real comfort foods for when you need something unctuous and warming.

“They are also dishes which can easily be prepared in advance and batch cooked for a midweek family dinner, with some simple pe thee kyaw (fried green beans) on the side and [some steamed rice].

“The definite dessert of choice for autumn and the nights drawing in would be dha hnyet mont which is our take on a sticky toffee pudding – flavoured with palm sugar and coconut caramel.”

A floating market on Inle lake, Shan state, Myanmar

Where might someone new to Burmese cuisine start?

“You could start with a curry – the triad of slowly cooked onions, garlic and ginger will be familiar to most and the recipes are simple and quick to follow.

“Noodle dishes are also a good starting point – combining lots of different flavours and textures, which Burmese food does really well.”

What ingredients do you always have at home?

“We always have a generous supply of onions, garlic and ginger which are the holy grail of Burmese cooking.

Turmeric, paprika and chilli powder are key spices and we always have fish sauce and shrimp paste in the cupboard.

“We also keep a variety of dried noodles such as egg, vermicelli, rice sticks and, of course, rice.

“Last but not least, the Burmese salad (a thoke) is ready to be assembled with a steady supply of toasted gram flour, garlic oil and tamarind.”

What have been the challenges and rewards of running supper clubs while also being busy doctors?

“With any busy job it can be a challenge to achieve a good work-life balance. The supper club experience has been overwhelmingly positive – it is great to be able to have an outlet which is completely different to medicine.

“Whilst it can be hard work, the pleasure of seeing everyone eating our food and enjoying it gives us a buzz and makes it all worthwhile.

“We feel very fortunate to be able to combine our love of food with our jobs and the opportunities that have come out of it.”


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