Friday, September 16, 2016

Burmese Garlic Noodle (See-chat-khawt-Swe)


I was a classic chick-flick protagonist growing up – a shy kid who hits books to avoid people. I hated going outside. I hated the sun, the moon, the stars and everything nature. Luckily, my mother had a massive collection of novels, comics and journals, which she stored in a big red old cabinet under our altar. I remembered spending hours a day, lying on my belly, leafing through pages of old dusty pages amidst the cloud of molds from old pages and incense smoke from the altar above. Whenever a book was coming to an end, I would try to read slowly so I was not forced to go outside by boredom. Not surprisingly, growing up with books made me want to start writing. I am not saying that I am a good writer, but a solid 80% of me believes that the love for writing does not come to those who hate reading.


A corollary is that I like cooking is because I like eating. I am not talking about eating with a strong therapeutic purpose of comforting our psychological or physical pain nor I am referring to a health-focused, micro-macro-nutrients-driven, prescription-style way of consuming food. I am certainly not touching the topic of mindful eating, where I am supposed to ponder deeply about every spoonful – I will fail in literally five seconds.  I am talking about the way I was brought up to eat- eating out of greed, celebration, and family tradition. The act of eating, I feel, is and should be simple. If we need a book or a Buzzfeed article to teach us on how to eat, our human lineage would have gone extinct a long time ago.

Handsmashed noodle

My love for eating stems definitely more from nurture than nature. I grew up living with 22 people in Yangon, and there was and is no single person in my family with BMI under 28. We like to eat good food and lots of it. We were not a serious family, but we did take good food as seriously. My dad would rather not eat than to eat something mediocre. I remember we had an ever-updating list of our favorite restaurants, food vendors and brands.

homemade noodle

When I think about my childhood in Yangon right now, I don’t remember much about breakfast, definitely not lunch nor dinner. But, I still recall vividly about tea times (about 3 or 4pm), the time of the day where my family believe (and still believes) that anything this is not rice should be eaten. By 4pm, the empty household livened up once again with kids from school and adults from work. In a way, this teatime became a casual celebration of us being together as well as completion of our daily duties. Whenever I think about the teatime, I can still hear my aunts gossiping about their business competitors, my dad’s sarcastic comments on the conversations, us talking about Poke’mon. and, of course, slurping of see-chat-khawt-swe (garlic noodle), slippery strands of noodles tossed in aromatic garlic oil, and topped with poached pork pieces. I was actually happy and content, reading singularly and eating collectively.

xian handsmashed noodle

In its simplest form, see-chat-khawt-swe consists of freshly cooked hot noodle strands tossed in heady garlic oil with a touch of salt and white pepper. You can say it is a version of Italian spaghetti aglio e olio, but, in my opinion, much more aromatic. The one I was brought up with has additional kisses from anise-y five-spice-powder, sticky sweet dark soy sauce, deep salty soy sauce, and a touch of good old MSG.  The result is lip-smackingly savory and glistening golden strands, ready to be devoured piping hot in mere minutes. The experience of eating Burmese garlic noodle is tantamount to an intense orgasmic love-making: once you start, you quickly find yourself unable to stop until the deed is done.


There are literally thousands of shops with spacious parking in Yangon that sells see-chat-khawt-swe, and many are actually quite good. But, my family always (yes, always is the operative word here) bought from this tiny roadside shop in an overly crowded 13th street in downtown Yangon. Is it still the best see-chat-khawt-swe in Yangon today? The question is irreverent. When something, such as food, becomes your personal history, you come to love both polished sparkles and blemished crevices that make up the whole experience, just like I will always find a sense of peace flipping through moldy books, no matter how disgusting they are.




Garlic oil (Microwave way)
  • 1 head of garlic (minced roughly)
  • 1 cup of flavorless oil (peanut, canola or vegetable)
  • 1/8 teaspoon of turmeric

I get distracted easily, and will burn garlic pieces whenever I make garlic-infused oil. My new landlord taught me this fool-proof method to use microwave. However, I do feel the need to warn you to be careful since you will be handling hot oil. If you are careful and patient enough, you will be rewarded with gorgeously golden, pungent, date-repellent. Drizzle on everything.

  • Get a microwavable container with a sprout you can pour from. Place the oil in the container, and heat at high for 5 minutes.
  • In the meantime, place the chopped garlic in the largest ceramic bowl you can find. Place the bowl in a sink just in case when spillage happens, it is easier to clean up. I am not saying that it will happen. But, you never know.
  • Pour in the hot oil over the garlic pieces. They will start to sizzle voraciously. Let them sizzle for 1-2 minutes. Then, add in turmeric, gorgeous food dye. The oil will turn into almost fluorescent yellow.
  • Microwave for 1 minute. Take it out and see if the garlic pieces start to float. If not, repeat one to two times. The oil is ready, when the garlic shards turn golden and start to float on top.

Noodle (from ladyandpups)
  • 218 grams (1 1/2 cup) of bread flour
  • 2 grams of salt
  • ½ cup of water + up to 3 tbsps for adjustment


Making the dough
  • Place the flour and salt in the vessel of your bread-kneading appliance. I used the KitchenAid stand mixer with a C-shaped hook. I don’t feel qualified to tell you how to knead dough my hand, but this video may answer any questions you might have.
  • Turn the speed to low, and start adding water slowly. Don’t even think about plunging all the water right away, as the dough will hydrate unevenly.
  • Set speed high enough so that the dough is getting proper strong kneading, but not too high that it just flies around the vessel without getting beat. Knead for at least 5 minutes. If you think the dough is still dry add more water, but no more than 3 tbsps.
  • Knead for another 15 minutes. The dough should be as smooth as a baby’s bottom. If you try to stretch the dough right now, it will break. Let the dough relax at the room temperature for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Making into noodle strips
  • The dough should be soft, elastic and at room temperature. Roll out the dough so that it is about ¼ inch thick. Cut into about ¼’ width.
  • Oil the strips very well by stroking the strips with your oil-dipped fingers.
  • Grab the cut out strip by the ends, and pull slowly. Of course, the middle parts tend get disproportionately thinner as you pull, so make sure you give some love to the ends by stretching the thick parts individually.
  • Then, by using a roller pin, rolled out so that the noodles are as flat as they can be.
  • Cook the noodle strands for about 2-3 minutes in vegetable stock or chicken broth. If you are using water, I advise you put in bouillon cubes to impart maximum flavor in the noodles. You have to remember that the noodles are basically just flour and water, and their blandness definitely can use extra flavor boost.

Easiest Pork  Belly Ever
  • 1 lbs. of pork belly
  • Salt

  • Get a largest pot you can find, and fill it up with water. Bring the water to a rolling boil. Salt until the water tastes like a properly salted pasta water (or seawater).
  • Carefully drop in the luscious belly, making sure the whole cut is fully immersed.
  • Turn down the heat to medium-low and simmer for about 3 hours.
  • When the time is up, slowly transfer the meat to a big plate, and freeze for one hour. This step will make it a lot easier for you to slice the belly.
  • Right before serving, slice the cold belly, and give the slices a 1-min bath in boiling water.

  • 2 cups of cooked noodles (either homemade or store-bought egg noodles)
  • ½ tbsp. of sweet dark soy sauce (I adore this brand)
  • ½ tbsp. of soy sauce
  • ¼ tsp. of five spice powder
  • 2 tbsps. of garlic oil
  • ¼ tsps. of mushroom powder (or MSG)
  • 1/8 tsps. of white pepper

  • Toss everything together and garnish with lots of scallion.

Top with pork belly if you like. If you or your guests have unfortunate fat-phobia, shredded roasted pork shoulder will also be good. I, personally, like to include thinly sliced liver poached quickly in boiling water. The metallic nuttiness of liver slices, somehow, complement the pungent richness of the noodles.

print recipe

Burmese garlic noodle (See-chat-khawt-swe)
Noodles, garlic and lots of pork bellies. Need I say more?
  • 2 cups Cooked noodles
  • 1/2 tbsp. Sweet dark soy sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp. Soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp. Five spice powder
  • 2 tbsps. Garlic oil
  • 1/4 tsp. Mushroom powder (or MSG)
  • 1/8 tsps. White pepper
Toss everything together and garnish with lots of scallion.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 1 serving



  1. I am not sure I am brave enough to attempt the pork belly but the garlic noodles look absolutely, mouth watering delicious.

    1. Yes, the noodle is absolutely delicious. Even if you don’t want to make your own noodle, the sauce is utterly delicious.

  2. I burned chopped garlic too often and your way of making garlic oil is absolutely so much easier. I will try that next time for sure

    1. Hahah great minds behave alike? Yes, try this method and let me know how it works :D

  3. I share the same feeling, probably spent too much time indoor reading without enough social interaction with other people. But I'm happy that now we have internet to bring like minded people together.
    Love these handmade noodles. They are gorgeous :)

    1. Yes, I am so glad that I get to meet you through blogging. :D

  4. I am swooning over this noodle plate. I think I fainted.

  5. Just read:Readers Choice at the Saveur Magazine awards! Congratulations! Well-deserved, totally!

  6. Love the story behind the recipe as much as the glistening, inviting noodles!

  7. You added Liver too, didn't you ? Going to look for Mohinga, but then saw this one that I've almost forgotten! Going to make it next week!

    1. Haha yes..I love liver so much. Can you send me a picture of mohinga after you make it? :D

  8. Thanks for sharing these yummy recipe of Burmese garlic noodles. I really had no idea about this type if Burmese noodles before.Thanks once again for letting us know about this yummy recipe.

  9. This content is written very well. Your use of formatting when making your points makes your observations very clear and easy to understand. Thank you. html color codes

  10. Amazing stuff from you once again. You really are the best writer of this era, my friend. I hope you will give us more stuff like this in the future. download instagram stories