Burma Superstar

Burma Superstar: Addictive Recipes from the Crossroads of Southeast Asia by Desmond Tan and Kate Leahy, owners of the beloved San Francisco restaurant of the same name, delivers a mouthwatering collection of recipes.

The restaurant known for its bustling tables and the sounds and aromas of sizzling onions and garlic coming from the wok, have customers who start to line up before the doors even open. A full parking lot or a line outside the door is a sure sign of greatness – no one waits for mediocre food.

Ninety recipes have been revamped for the home cook and include Chili Lamb, Pork and Pumpkin Stew, Platha (a buttery layered flatbread), Spicy Eggplant, and Mohinga, a fish noodle soup that is touted as Myanmar’s national dish. Vivid photography and essays that focus on the country and its food make this a must-have book that delivers a glimpse into this jewel of Southeast Asia.

Read about Har San, the Platha Man, who makes the buttery flatbread on a stainless-steel table in an office above the Oakland restaurant – his journey to America and his secrets to making this beautiful bread. And Wai K. Law, the sentry at the wok who handles the mad rush from 5 pm to 10 pm like a superstar. The history behind the food and traditions – the story of Myanmar’s most mysterious food – tea – and try Burma Superstar’s famous Tea Leaf Dressing. This is a cookbook, a love story to Burma, and a tribute to the heart of Burma Superstar – the staff – two pages of their headshots finish up the book.

I have made the Superstar Vegetarian Noodles (and have to resist the urge to pull a Mary Katherine Gallagher move every time I type Superstar) and the Fried Onions and Onion Oil (and have to resist the urge to pour that onion oil on everything). You wouldn’t think that potatoes and noodles go well together in the Vegetarian Noodles but they are perfect. I have countless other recipes on my list to make including their version of Sesame Chicken, Chicken with Basil and the Chicken with Mint (we like chicken) which we are sharing with you today. 
Thanks to Ten Speed Press and the authors for sharing this tasty recipe with Eat Your Book members. Be sure to head over to our contest page to enter our giveaway

Those who like laap will love this Burmese-Chinese version of the herby Thai minced meat dish. Here, minced chicken is stir-fried with ground cumin and mustard seeds, ginger, garlic, and a spoonful of sambal oelek (see page 238). Whole cloves of garlic are mixed in for texture, but they are fried ahead of time to reduce the pungency of eating them raw. Use the smaller cloves found on the inside of a head of garlic or slice large cloves in half. You can turn this into a veg¬etarian dish by dicing up a block of firm tofu, letting it drain on paper towels for a few minutes, and then stir-frying the tofu pieces in place of the chicken. If you made the Mustard-Cumin Spice Blend (see page 215), use a teaspoon of it in place of the mustard and cumin seeds called for below.
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 small) or 4 to 5 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1⁄2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1⁄2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
2 tablespoons sambal oelek (see page 238)
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce or 1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1⁄4 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons canola oil
6 to 8 small garlic cloves
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1⁄2 jalapeño, chopped, or 2 Thai chiles, sliced
1⁄4 cup chopped cilantro, plus extra sprigs for garnish
1⁄4 cup chopped mint
Lime wedges, for garnish
To mince the chicken, place the pieces on the cutting board so the smooth side is facing up. With a knife blade parallel to the cutting board, slice the chicken in half width-wise, opening it up into two thinner, even pieces. Cut the chicken against the grain into thin strips, then chop the strips finely. Run the knife over the meat until it looks evenly minced. (Cutting the chicken by hand results in a better texture than using ground chicken.)
In a dry wok or skillet, toast the cumin seeds and mustard seeds until the cumin is fragrant and the mustard seeds start to pop, no more than 30 seconds. Transfer to a mortar with a pestle or a coffee grinder used for grinding spices and pulverize into a coarse powder.
In a small bowl, mix together the sambal, soy sauce, fish sauce, and sugar. (If not using soy sauce, you may need a pinch more fish sauce.)
In a wok or large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Tilt the wok so the oil pools to one side and add the garlic cloves. (This helps the garlic cloves stay submerged in oil so they fry more evenly.) Fry until light golden and softened, about 1 minute. Use a slotted spoon to remove the garlic cloves. Leave the oil in the wok.
Heat the wok over high heat. When the oil is hot (but not smoking), add the minced garlic and ginger. Stir-fry for a few seconds and add the chicken. Using a spatula or wooden spoon, stir-fry the chicken briefly, then press the meat against the sides of the wok to increase the surface area and decrease how much the chicken steams. (If using a skillet, spread the chicken evenly across its base.) Water will start to pool in the center of the wok, but that’s okay-it will cook out. After a minute, give the wok a stir so the chicken pieces don’t stick together. Repeat this step until the chicken is light brown in places and pale in others, about 3 minutes depending on the wok and the burner strength.

Stir in the mustard-cumin blend, sambal mixture, fried garlic cloves, and jalapeño. Stir constantly, until the liquid just lightly coats the meat. Mix in the chopped cilantro and mint. Serve with cilantro sprigs and lime wedges.

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Reprinted with permission from Burma Superstar, copyright © 2017 by Desmond Tan and Kate Leahy. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.  Photographs copyright © 2017 by John Lee

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  • SilverSage  on  April 4, 2017

    I would like to try either the chicken or shrimp kebat.

  • SilverSage  on  April 4, 2017

    Never tried Burmese, but would like to.

  • Elena Rose  on  April 4, 2017

    I miss living near this restaurant! I would make the spicy eggplant first, it's delicious!

  • CRT  on  April 4, 2017

    I will make this recipe tomorrow. I also want to make tea leaf salad.

  • cheftina888  on  April 5, 2017

    I never had the curry from a Burmese restaurant but I've tried Thai, Malaysia food and vietnamese curry chicken or meats/ There are some similarities in the recipes but the only difference is the slight addition of other ingredients and degree of spiciness in their curries. I would like to try the curry chicken or beef recipes to see how much of a difference it is between the countries

  • gjelizabeth  on  April 5, 2017

    I've never cooked Burmese food. It looks interesting.

  • Uhmandanicole  on  April 5, 2017

    I did cook a burmese meal! I can't really remember what it was, but it was some kind of chicken dish.

  • ejsimpson  on  April 5, 2017

    Chicken Dal Curry. Can hardly wait!

  • MmeFleiss  on  April 6, 2017

    I love making the Burmese chili sauce.

  • Siegal  on  April 6, 2017

    I can't wait to try to
    Cool Burmese food

  • hippiechick1955  on  April 6, 2017

    No, I have never cooked it however I have eaten it when I was young and lived in Burma. My father was a pilot and we lived all around the world, moving every 6 months to a year.

  • Scrumptious  on  April 6, 2017

    Oh my god the Vegetarian Superstar Noodles! I crave them, with their little flecks of potato and other savory goodness. I'm also thrilled to finally – after 15 years – have access to the recipe for Burma Superstar's unique Samusa Soup. If I take visitors to one restaurant in SF, it's this one.

  • tinaellen  on  April 6, 2017

    I've only had traditional Burmese once before, in a restaurant and I'd love to try making it at home. The tea leaf salad blew me away so I'd probably try that first.

  • monique.potel  on  April 7, 2017

    all of this is making my mouth water cant wait to start mixing those spices

  • t.t  on  April 7, 2017

    never tried burmese food, but this looks amazing!

  • TrishaCP  on  April 8, 2017

    We have some good Burmese food in the DC metro area, but I also make it at home. Utterly delicious.

  • fiarose  on  April 8, 2017

    never–i've made a lot of thai and vietnamese food and some indonesian, but looking forward to this book being my first foray into burmese!

  • PennyG  on  April 9, 2017

    No, I have never cooked an entire Burmese meal. I would love to try!

  • earthnfire  on  April 9, 2017

    I've never cooked a Burmese meal, but would be interested to try.

  • bstewart  on  April 10, 2017

    I haven't — but I've eaten at Burmese restaurants and would love to re-create things like the tea leaf salad.

  • thecharlah  on  April 10, 2017

    I'm embarrassed to say that I haven't!

  • lgroom  on  April 15, 2017

    I have never cooked Burmese food.

  • RSW  on  April 17, 2017

    never have and would love to try.

  • sipa  on  April 18, 2017

    I have not cooked Burmese food yet but I have eaten on a few occasions.

  • meggan  on  April 20, 2017

    I would like to try!

  • edyenicole  on  April 22, 2017

    I have not made this kind of food before.

  • imaluckyducky  on  April 24, 2017

    I have made Burmese meals before 🙂

  • AnnaZed  on  April 28, 2017

    I never have made Burmese food, I so passionately want to do so. My husband buys sambal oelek by the case – true story – this looks like something nice and interesting that I can do with it besides dumping it al over everything.

  • beetlebug  on  May 1, 2017

    I love this restaurant and go when I visit SF. I've been trying to convince my husband that we need to visit Burma and cooking him Burmese will help my case.

  • tangaloor  on  May 4, 2017

    Never had a Burmese meal!

  • Lem9579  on  May 5, 2017

    Egg and Okra curry

  • Lem9579  on  May 5, 2017

    I've cooked Burmese food before. I have Naomi Duguid's book, Burma, Rivers of Flavor. I like it a lot. The book and the food!

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