Burmese food has the most wonderful combination of sour, salty, bitter and spicy flavors. If you look at a map of Asia, you will notice that Burma sits between India, and China, and share borders with Bangladesh, Thailand, and Laos. No wonder Burmese cuisine is so tasty!
A little background on Burma
If you are unfamiliar with Burma, now called Myanmar, and its culture, think of Buddha and the land of thousand Buddhist temples, incredible white sandy beaches along the Andaman sea and so much more. I first discovered this country through a movie called “Beyond Rangoon” with Patricia Arquette, and Frances McDormand. The story is inspired by real people and events, and is a great way to discover some of the traditions of this beautiful country and its people. At the time, I had heard of Aung San Suu Kyi, winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize and her courageous fight for the freedom of her people.
TIME FOR TRIVIA!
What is the National fruit of Burma?
2. Passion fruit
4. Star fruit
Answer at the end.
Back to our fritters! Yellow split pea/lentil fritters are called Pe chan gyaw. Don’t ask me what it means but if you ever go to a Burmese restaurant, you will be able to find it on the menu or do what we do, point at dishes that have been served on neighboring tables and ask what it is! This always works!
So what is the main ingredient?
These little fritters are traditionally made with yellow split lentils. In case you are not sure what these are, I made a little photo collage because I was also confused by all the different types and names. These can be bought in Asian stores and health food stores and always online.
Why soaking beans, seeds or pulse?
All beans, seeds and pulse are covered with a thin coat of phytic acid. Why is that? Mother Nature did this in order to prevent accidental sprouting from occurring! No waste in the natural world! So soaking beans, seeds and pulse washes away this enzyme and triggers the sprouting process. This also transforms a dormant seed into a living plant unleashing all of its nutrition and enzymes.
NOTE: 1 cup of dried split peas or lentils will yield 2.5 cups after rehydrating them over night.
What if I can’t find yellow split lentils?
No problem, you can substitute pink coral lentils (the one used in dahl soup) or even yellow split peas.
Most of the preparation time comes from soaking the lentils overnight, so get started the night before and you will be making these in record time!
By the way, these fritters have the most amazing texture, it is almost like chicken. Soft on the inside but holding together beautifully. We were all amazed the first time I made them!
TRIVIA ANSWER: The national fruit of Myanmar is Rambutan
The first time I tasted this unusual fruit was in Hong Kong back in the 90’s. I had volunteered to teach English in a refugee camp. It was in the summer and I had never experienced such heat and humidity in my life! All I could eat was fruit I bought at the night market. So I tried them all. Rambutans reminded me so much of the super furry hats the Queen’s guards wear in London! I was shown that the best way to eat them was to use a knife and score the top or the middle and the fruit pops out. If you refrigerate them, they are so good! So next time you go to an Asian grocery store, grab a few, you won’t regret it!
Burmese Split Pea Fritters
- Mortar & pestle or food processor
- paper towels
- Deep frying utensils like metal slotted spoon, long metal tongs
- 1/2 cup yellow split peas or lentils
- vegetable oil for deep frying
- 5 tbsp rice flour
- 2 cups warm water
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds
- 1-2 garlic cloves
- 1/2 tbsp chili flakes
- 1 medium shallot minced
- pinch of turmeric
- sea salt & pepper
- 1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise (Vegenaise)
- 3-5 tbsp Yellow mustard
Prepare the mustard sauce
- Whisk the vegenaise with the yellow mustard. Taste and season. Set aside.
Prepare the peas or lentils
- Remove any dark bit of lentils or peas.
- Cover 1 cup of dried yellow split peas or lentil with water the night before.
- The next morning, drain, rinse, and set aside.
Prepare the spices
- In a mortar or a food processor grind the cumin seeds, salt, pepper, then garlic and shallots until you get a light paste.
- Heat up a small pan with a little vegetable oil and slowly heat the spice paste until it is lightly caramelized.
- This should only take a few minutes. Keep stirring so that it doesn't burn or stick to the pan.
Prepare the batter
- Whisk 5 tbsp of rice flour with 1/2 cup of warm water until well blended.
Make and cook the fritters
- Combine the batter in a large bowl, add the spice paste and mix.
- Fold the soaked split peas or lentils.
- Process the mix in a food processor just to gently mix it further. Don't turn it into mush. You want to keep a few whole peas or lentils.
- Heat up enough cooking oil to deep fry in a small deep pan.
- Prepare your working area; set aside a spatula, tablespoon, metal slotted spoon and long metal tongs.
- Place paper towels on a large plate. Have your bowl near by the stove.
- How to know when the oil is hot enough? Quickly dip the tip of a wood spoon and bubbles should quickly form.
- Using your tablespoon, scoop a little filling, and slide into the pan with a spatula.
- Quickly cover the fritter with oil. Let it cook for less than a minute (they are small) flipping each and making sure they don't burn.
- Using a metal slotted spoon, scoop the fritter on a plate lined with paper towel to drain the excess oil.
- Repeat until all fritters are cooked. This batch should yield 18-20 small fritters.
- Keep warm in a toaster oven until you are ready to serve.
- Serve on a bad of greens with mustard dipping sauce.