Whichever part of Myanmar you go, you will see the custom of eating fresh or boiled vegetables with some type of dipping sauce as a part of a meal. Consequently, we have developed many different types of vegetable dips depending on the region. The recipes for these dips call for lots of fish sauce, fermented fish, shrimp, garlic, or chili powder.
The word “dip” in these sauces is almost a misnomer because many people, including myself, would just mix these dips with rice and call it a meal. In fact, in many villages, rice and fermented fish dipping sauce or nga-pi-yay-kyo make up the main entree of their meals. These dipping condiments are the core of the Burmese culture, and mastery over Burmese cooking certainly calls for the ability to create these tasty side dishes.
This Burmese spiced tomato dip is one of my all time favorites. Last summer, when I went back to Yangon, my aunt made me a big bowl of this spiced tomato dip, so it would last throughout my entire stay. It was so addicting that I ended up finishing the whole thing in a few days. I literally dipped almost everything (vegetables, meat, crackers) in that flavorful sauce, and yes, I am using “literally” in a correct grammatical manner. If I had to pick one Burmese dish to eat for the rest of my life, this dish would be my definite choice.
The dish is extremely easy to make, yet packs bold flavor. Tomatoes contain the highest concentration of glutamic acid among vegetables. The glutamic acid is what gives cheese and meat their unique savoriness, widely known today as umami flavor. Cooking tomatoes for almost an hour with spices further concentrate the umami flavor, giving the dish the unparalleled savoriness. Next time, when you are having a party, instead of serving salsa or ranch dressing, try serving this tomato dip, it will be a good surprise for your guests. As for me, I will just mix the tomato dip with my white rice, and eat it on the couch while watching Netflix. If hunger is the best sauce, then this tomato dip is the second best sauce.
|Rainbow carrot and tomato dip|
- 10 plum tomatoes
- ½ head of garlic (minced)
- 2 teaspoons of paprika
- 2 teaspoons of turmeric
- 1 teaspoon of cumin powder
- ¼ cup of fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon of brown sugar
- 2 cup of cilantro
- ½ cup of oil
- 1 tablespoon of butter
- Puree the tomatoes in the food processor.
- In a pan, heat up the oil and melt the butter.
- When the fat mixture is hot, sauté the minced garlic on medium-high until the garlic are almost golden.
- Add paprika, turmeric, and cumin powder. The oil should turn into gorgeous ruby red, and your whole kitchen will smell divine.
- Add in tomato mixture, and mix thoroughly.
- Bring the mixture to a boil and let it simmer for about 35 minutes with constant stirring.
- At about 35-minute time point, the mixture should have reduced at least half.
- Add fish sauce, sugar and cilantro.
- Crank up the heat to high while stirring constantly for about 5-10 minutes until you start to see oil on the surface. This indicates that most water has evaporated, and the dish is done. A great way to check is to divide the tomato mixture into two sides with a spatula, and if the two sides stay separated, the dish is done.
- Adjust taste and garnish with cilantro.
- Serve it with vegetables, crackers, tortillas or simply over rice.