For those desperately craving for an authentic taste of Burma, your day of rejoicing has finally arrived! Inspired by the region’s Flying Tigers supply flights a few advance copies of the Burma Cookbook are being flown to Australia. The Cookbooks will arrive well in advance of their official launch date of Feb 1 in Australia, but nobody will complain as it arrives just in time for the holidays.
Peribo, local distributors for the cookbook, has just about 50 copies to distribute to Australian stores, such as The Cookery Book in Sydney and the Asia Bookroom in Canberra. The shipped copies of the books, to arrive later in time for the February sales, will ensure the shelves are fully stocked to meet customer demands.
The Burma Cookbook is a project that was in the making for well over a decade. Myanmar’s opulence in culinary delicacies have been breathtakingly captured in the form of lavish illustrations and photographs encompassing some 175 exquisite recipes. This book is just as easily a travelogue as it is a cookbook, equally gracing the coffee table and the kitchen. Each page takes you on a journey starting from the preparation stage culminating with the serving of some of Myanmar’s best known culinary delights. Authoritative details, step by step techniques and a comprehensive glossary makes the process of conjuring the same magic in one’s kitchen easy.
Myanmar’s distinct flavours are a subtle permeation of ginger, onion and garlic, however without the dash of fiery spice that can burn your taste buds. Evidently, it is a step apart from what the culinary delights from China, India and Thailand are like. The Burma Cookbook is an excellent way to sample that fantastic assortment of culinary delicacies contributed by the immigrant population of Myanmar. The book is also a window on to the rich cultural contributions of the country’s diverse population.
Robert Carmack and Morrison Polkinghorne made their first steps into Burma some 20 years ago and at that moment they never realised that they are actually taking their first steps in making a cookbook. Travelling through the heart of the Golden Triangle, in the border town of Tachileik, they were greeted with freshly pock-marked bullets, left-overs from recent battles with a local drug baron. The first restaurant that they entered was not exactly pristine. The floor was covered with dirt and a counter that had a plethora of curries on offer including one that of a wild tiger. Mug-shots of five presiding government military leaders graced the counter almost as if set on an altar. The experience was nothing what they had imagined and nowhere near a foodie would expect, but yet the warmth of the people was what struck them and made them come back.
During the duos subsequent visitation to Rangoon or the present day Yangon, the idea to present their travel experience in the form of a culinary journey struck them. Robert has just won a charity bid to stay at the city’s Grande Dame Hotel, The Strand; a fine example of a colonial neo-Georgian architecture, designed by the same family that built the famed Raffles in Singapore. Such was the hype around it at that time that an advertisement boasted it as “the best hostelry east of the Suez.” To almost establish that claim, just before their first visit, The Strand had gone through a multi-million dollar facelift. Apart from its exquisite location overlooking the riverfront at the heart of the slowly disintegrating colonial architectures around it, the place also served some of the best food in town. One of them being lobster Thermidor.
Suddenly it all came together, their adventures in understanding new cultures and trying out new culinary delicacies seemed like the perfect recipe to combine history with food and a generous mixture of travel. To add the final dash of garnish, their work also includes Strand’s collection of legacy menus, pictures and photos.