Festivals are definitely a great reason for a trip to Myanmar, a country often called a “Land of Festivals” because of the many religious and political celebrations that take place throughout the year. Many festivals are based on the lunar calendar, and therefore the date changes every year.
Like India‘s Diwali festival that we celebrated last year, we again celebrate light on 196 flavors, this year to celebrate Thadingyut, the lighting festival.
Thadingyut is the second biggest festival of the year, and is typically celebrated during the month of October. This year, it will be on October 15th and 16th. This festival marks the end of Buddhist Lent. People light up their houses with lanterns and candles to symbolically welcome Buddha during his descent from heaven.
During these two days of festivities, people play with fire crackers and fire balloons, paper lanterns, or go to shows (zatpwe), film screenings and banquets … Burmese people also visit pagodas to pray and pay homage to the monks, who most of them fast for the occasion. Children and parents give gifts to each other.
Thadingyut marks the end of Buddhist Lent (vassa) and celebrates the return of Buddha to Earth, in the human world after a stay in Heaven where he divulged his teachings to the celestial beings and to his mother Maya who died seven days after his birth.
That day, the full moon of the month of Thadingyut, the seventh month of the lunar calendar, celestial beings created three paths, one gold, one silver and the third one of ruby: Buddha took the ruby path to descend on Earth. The tradition thus continues until today and Burmese decorate houses, streets and public buildings wuth light bulbs and candles symbolizing the three trails.
Thadingyut is the most popular festival in Myanmar after New Year (Thingyan).
But back to today’s recipe, ohn no kauk swe, which translates to “noodles with coconut milk”. Noodles, as well as rice are definitely a staple in this region of Asia, as much as baguette is in France.
Also called ohn no khao swe, on no khauk swe, ohn no khauk sway, ohn no khau sway ohn no khau swe, the dish consists of wheat noodles in a chicken curry and coconut milk base. This dish is often topped with crunchy fried rice noodles, sliced raw onions, hot pepper, and boiled egg.
Again, spices are honored in this recipe that calls for a paste (curry), spices and herbs.
The ohn no kauk swe recipe that I chose to make today may be served as a soup or as a curry. I am currently visiting my family in Israel under a scorching sun and I must admit that the soup option didn’t really appeal my adorable niece and nephew, Ava and Meni, who lent me a hand in the preparation of my ohn no kauk swe.
Regarding the coconut milk that is used in the ohn no kauk swe and which I personally love, I was very surprised to discover that many Burmese people are afraid of it. There is a very strong belief that coconut milk contributes to high blood pressure, and because of that, people tend to use evaporated milk instead.
Another very important ingredient in this recipe: fish sauce. One of the most popular ingredients in Myanmar, as in manySoutheast Asian countries is ngapi. Ngapi is a paste of fermented fish or shrimp. Ngapi is produced by fermenting chopped fish (or shrimp). This mixture is then dried under the sun.
I couldn’t find any ngapi in Israel, I therefore replaced it with nuoc-mâm, the same fish sauce that I used for my Vietnamese bò tái chanh, or som tam (green papaya salad) from Thailand or Mike’s spring rolls.
We enjoyed our ohn no kauk swe with the family the fay after the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, with three generations at the same table! Those moments are priceless and unfortunately so rare…
We wish a wonderful Thadingyut festival to all Burmese friends!
Ohn no kauk swe is a famous Burmese recipe prepared with wheat noodles in a chicken curry and coconut milk broth and topped with fried rice noodles.
- 4 scallions
- 1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger , peeled and finely grated
- 4 cloves garlic , peeled and finely grated
- 2 shallots , finely diced
- 2 onions , finely diced
- 1 lb egg noodles
- 6 boneless chicken thighs , cut into thin strips
- 2 tablespoons chickpea flour
- 1 (14 oz.) can coconut milk
- A handful of flat rice noodles
- 4 tablespoons crushed red pepper
- 4 tablespoons paprika
- 1 lime , cut into 4 wedges
- 3 hard-boiled eggs
- 2 vegetable stock cubes
- 1 red onion , thinly cut
- 3 tablespoons ngapi fish paste (or fish sauce)
- 2-½ cups cold water , divided
- Vegetable oil
- Heat a little oil in a pan and sweat the onions over low heat. Add the ginger and garlic.
- Sauté for 3 minutes, then chop the everything in a food processor until obtaining a coarse paste.
- In a bowl, combine the chicken and red pepper flakes, 1 tablespoon of paprika and a little salt. Set aside.
- Whip the chickpea flour with ½ cup of cold water and pour this mixture in a pan. Add the paste and mix well. Add the fish paste and the bouillon cube.
- Bring to a boil, then add 2 cups of cold water.
- Bring to a boil again and boil for 7 minutes.
- Heat 4 tablespoons of oil in a frying pan or wok. When the oil is hot, pour 2 tablespoons of paprika and mix well. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Fry the flat rice noodles in a large bath of hot oil until they swell slightly and use a slotted spoon to take the crispy rice noodles out of the oil and place them in a colander. Take 1 tablespoon of the frying oil and set aside.
- Boil the wheat egg noodles and drain them.
- In a wok, pour the 2 tablespoons of reserved oil (from the rice noodles) and one tablespoon of the oil that was heated with the paprika, and fry the spring onions and shallots.
- Add the marinated chicken and the last tablespoon of paprika oil, mix well and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes.
- Add the broth and coconut milk and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.
- Pour the wheat noodles in this broth and stir over medium heat for 5 minutes.
- Serve hot, accompanied by boiled egg slices, red onion slices and fried rice noodles.
Optional: sprinkle lime juice.