My second recipe of our culinary journey in Burma, yum makruatad keow, is a simple and delicious green tomato salad.
Burmese cuisine is delicious and very healthy, and beside a wide variety of curries and soups, Burmese people are fond of salads.
There are many kinds of salads in Burma, and, as Mike mentioned In his first recipe, tofu thoke, they are an institution in the country.
There are encounters that stay with you throughout a lifetime…
I was no older than 12 years when, in the middle of a farm of my native Morocco, I met an old man for the first time who was lovingly watering his tomatoes.
That day, I saw him chew on a green tomato, and don’t ask me why, I immediately thought he was going to die of poisoning on the spot.
That was the day I learned that green tomatoes were as tasty as red tomatoes and not just pickled or in jams.
But back to Burma. On Inle Lake, the famous great Burmese lake, farmers maintain an old tradition: floating agriculture also called ye-chan, with its main production being tomatoes. There are hundreds of hectares of small floating islands that produce enough tomatoes and other vegetables to help the region’s economy. The tomato cultivation represents nearly 90% of the ye-chan dating back to the nineteenth century.
But let’s talk about tomatoes, which, although being a fruit are considered the “king of vegetables”. They are actually the most consumed vegetable in the world after potatoes.
Do you know that every second, nearly 9,000 lb of tomatoes are produced in the world? 120 million tons of tomatoes of more than 500 varieties are grown and harvested annually, a third in Asia, a third in Europe and another in North America.
China is by far the largest producer of tomatoes, with 33.6 million tons per year, followed by five other countries: the United States, Turkey, India, Egypt, Italy and Iran, that each produce 5 million tons annually.
But let’s talk about the origins of the tomato.
Tomatoes are native of Peru, just like potatoes, as well as of Ecuador, where it was originally a wild plant. Then, it moved to Mexico where it became a cultivated plant. The word “tomato” actually comes from the Nahuatl Mexican word “tomatl”.
Tomatoes were introduced to Spain in the sixteenth century after the conquest of Central America and South America. In 1544, the first accounts of this new fruit described it as green and yellow.
Tomatoes were then exported to Italy where it is called “pomodoro” which definitely confirms its original color, yellow like gold.
At the time, tomato had a bad reputation: the Catholic clergy accused the fruit of exciting all the amorous passions as it was also called ” love apple” because of its red color and its very juicy flesh. Also note that tomatoes are a powerful aphrodisiac!
In France, tomatoes were introduced in the South of France from Italy. It was not until the French Revolution that it reached the North of France with the people from Marseille.
Since its arrival in Europe in the sixteenth century through the mid-eighteenth century, tomato were considered inappropriate for human consumption as botanists found it a resemblance to the doomed plant, mandrake.
Moreover, because of its color, it was called “the daughter of the devil” or
“the forbidden fruit” that was eaten during the original sin. Its use, with the exception of a few reckless and adventurous people, was exclusively decorative.
With such a bad start, this little wonder has come a long way! It has so many benefits that it would have been a shame! This summer vegetable by excellence (even if consumed year-round), very rich in nutrients and minerals, is full of vitamins and is also a healthy ally to most diets.
Besides being recognized as a protecting agent against the sun, tomatoes contribute to give a beautiful skin as they contain a powerful antioxidant that fights aging.
It is healthy and it helps with digestion. It is also ideal against gallstones and high blood pressure.
It can even help prevent cancer! Indeed, it is especially rich in lycopene, whose properties in cancer prevention are now recognized worldwide. Lycopene, which gives tomatoes their red color, attacks the free radicals responsible for aging, some coronary diseases and certain cancers. Indeed, many studies have shown that regular consumption of tomatoes was associated with a lower rate of cancers.
But beware of the golden rule when it comes to tomato: you should not keep it in the refrigerator as it loses all its micronutrients and many of its benefits.
Now, let’s go back to today’s Burmese green tomato salad. A quick and easy recipe, that calls for lemongrass vinegar. I am currently visiting Israel and since I didn’t have access to my usual Chinese market in Paris, I had to resort to making my own! I minced lemongrass that I infused for 24 hours in 1 cup of distilled vinegar and I had my lemongrass vinegar ready to go! I just stored the leftover in the refrigerator.
Like for bò tái chanh from Thailand, it is peanuts that give this salad a delicious crunch in addition to the crispiness from green tomatoes.
I fell in love with this salad! And I used the leftover green tomatoes for a small virtual luscious trip to Spain with a green tomato gazpacho that I sipped on the beach with my best friend, Joelle!
- 6 green tomatoes , sliced
- 2 shallots , minced
- 1 tablespoon unsalted roasted peanuts
- 2 cloves garlic , minced
- 2 tablespoons lemongrass vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- ½ teaspoon black sesame seeds
- Vegetable oil
Place sliced green tomatoes in a dish.
In a small nonstick skillet, fry the garlic over low/medium heat until they turn light brown. Remove the garlic from the oil with a slotted spoon. Reserve a tablespoon of the cooking oil.
To make the dressing, combine the shallots, peanuts, garlic, reserved garlic oil, lemongrass vinegar, and sesame oil in a bowl and whisk until smooth.
Pour over green tomatoes and garnish with black sesame seeds.