Friday, 11 April 2014

Mont Lone Yay Paw Recipe for Thingyan - Burmese New Year Sweets

Mont Lone Yay Paw - Sweet Floating Rice Balls

Burmese New Year begins this weekend - a week long Buddhist festival which is known as Thingyan in Burma aka Myanmar.

Three of the signs that signify that Thingyan has begun are that people start chucking water at each other indiscriminately in the spirit of mischievous fun, the sunshine yellow padauk flowers are blossoming, and the sweet snack known as Mont Lone Yay Paw (or mote lone yay paw) is dished up to everyone.

A traditional Burmese dessert, similar to Malaysia's onde onde, China's tangyuan and Indonesia's klepon (and, I suspect, influenced by all these), mont lone yay paw is to Thingyan what plum pudding is to Christmas Day - ie if you're having a pud to celebrate the occasion, you wouldn't dream of serving up anything else.





The name mont lone yay paw literally means "round snack on the water" in Burmese, as it's made by boiling up balls of rice dough which bob along on top of the bubbling water when they're ready to eat. 

The balls are stuffed with palm jaggery which we call htanyet, although you can substitute palm sugar. In keeping with the playful spirit of Thingyan, some folk will stuff the occasional ball with bird's eye chillies instead and offer them to unsuspecting friends. 

Mont lone yay paw are usually served on a square of banana leaf, and occasionally scattered with grated coconut if such a luxury is available.

One of the nicest things about mont lone yay paw is that you often make it in a big group, chatting away as you roll the balls in unison and throw them into the water. 




A few years ago, one of my uncles invited my family to join a big group of people to make mont lone yay paw for the students and monks at a monastery-run school just outside Mandalay. 

Even the children joined in rolling the balls, and their happy faces as they queued to receive the finished sweets which they'd helped to make themselves was a genuine joy to behold.


Mont Lone Yay Paw (Sweet Floating Rice Balls)

Makes 20-30 small balls


  • 400g glutinous rice flour
  • 100g rice flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 125ml water
  • Drop of green food colouring (optional)
  • 200g palm sugar, divided into 1cm balls or chunks
  • 4 bird's eye chillies (optional)
  • Handful of fresh grated or dessicated coconut


Sift the flours and salt into a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Add the water and knead until it forms a pliable dough. 

If you want half the balls to be green, divide the dough into two, add the food colouring to one half, and knead again till the colour spreads evenly.

Take a small piece of dough, roll it into a ball with about a 3cm diameter (see the photo of me holding one above) and then flatten it into a circle. 

Burmese palm jaggery known as htanyet

Place a chunk of palm sugar in the middle of the circle and then roll the dough back into a ball so you cover the chunk of sugar up completely.

Repeat for the rest of the dough till you have about 20-30 balls. If you're feeling naughty, stick a chilli into the odd ball.

Fill a stockpot or large saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Once it's ready, drop the balls in one by one. 

They will sink to the bottom at first, but then float to the surface of the water when they're ready (hence the name). 


Remove the balls with a slotted spoon, and dish up on squares of banana leaf or saucers - you want 4-5 balls in each serving. 

Scatter the balls with the shredded coconut and serve whilst still warm.




Monday, 24 March 2014

Smoky Bacon and Watercress Noodles (Recipe)

photo 4
Smoky Bacon and Watercress Noodle Soup

There's a sudden chill in the Spring air, and I feel like I need warming up, but I don't want to indulge in something too stodgy. 

This noodle soup is sweet, smoky and slightly sharp - which makes for a satisfying, but light and refreshing dish. 

It takes no time at all to make and uses mainly store cupboard ingredients, so is perfect for a week-night meal. 

This dish is a recent invention, but it's already become a favourite at home. 

You can switch the leafy herbs according to what's available - try mizuna, peashoots, or a friend of mine made a lovely suggestion of using wild garlic which is in season right now.

Smoky Bacon and Watercress Noodles

Smoky Bacon and Watercress Noodles 

Serves 2
  • 6 rashers of smoked streaky bacon
  • 500ml chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 300g fresh udon or rice noodles
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp wine vinegar
  • 1 spring onion, finely sliced
  • Large handful of trimmed watercress
  • Pinch of sweet smoked paprika to serve

Combine the bacon, stock and sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to the boil. Immediately turn the heat down to medium and simmer briskly for 5 minutes. Take out the cooked bacon, slice into strips and set to one side.
Now bring the stock back to the boil, add the fresh noodles, turn the heat down to medium and let the noodles cook through in the simmering stock - udon will cook in 3 minutes, rice noodles take 1 minute. Take out the noodles and divide between two bowls.
Top the noodles with the sliced bacon and drizzle a tablespoon each of light soy sauce, dark soy sauce and vinegar over each bowl. Bring the stock back to the boil one last time and then pour it carefully over the noodles.
Garnish with the sliced spring onion and watercress and sprinkle with a little paprika. Serve immediately.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Burmese Meatball Curry Recipe - A-thar-lohn-hin

Burmese Meatball Curry

A-thar-lohn-hin aka meatball curry is eaten throughout Burma, but especially in Upper Burma.

It is usually made with goat (seit-thar), but beef (a-mair-thar) is also popular. Lamb makes an excellent substitute, although is uncommonly used in Burma, partly because the Burmese word for "lamb" is thoh which also sounds like our word for "rotten".

It's also good using 50:50 pork and beef mince, and the higher up you travel in Burma, the more likely pork will feature in the mix.

Traditionally served with steamed rice, you could also eat it with naan bread, or even serve on noodles for a Burmese take on spaghetti and meatballs.

Burmese Meatball Curry (A-thar-lohn hin)
Serves 4-6

For the sauce
  • 4 medium onions, diced 
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 4 tbsp groundnut or other neutral oil
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes 
  • 3 red finger chillies 
  • 1 tbsp sweet paprika 
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce - good quality - I like Three Crabs

For the meatballs (makes 20-25)
  • 500g minced goat (substitute beef or lamb) 
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • Stalks from a bunch of coriander, minced 
  • 1 heaped tbsp tapioca starch 
  • 1 egg white 
  • 1 tsp salt 
  • 1 pinch MSG or 1 tbsp Marigold vegetable bouillon
  • 2 tbsp water
For the garnish
  • Fresh coriander leaves, torn
In a saucepan, fry the onions, garlic and turmeric in the oil for 5 minutes on a medium heat till soft. Add the tomatoes but don't throw away the can. Fry for another 10 minutes and then add two cans full of water. Turn the heat to high and then bring to the boil and then turn the heat to medium low, add the chillies, paprika and fish sauce and simmer for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix all the meatball ingredients in a large bowl and then form into ping pong balls - you'll make about 25.

Get a large frying pan and add a 2cm depth of water. Bring to the boil, add the meatballs in a layer and then turn the heat down to medium. Flip the meatballs as soon as they're firm - usually after 5 minutes or so.

Continue to fry the meatballs on a medium heat until the water sizzles away, the meatballs begin to brown (flip again to brown all over) and the fat begins to seep out of the meatballs - this method is called hsi byun in Burmese ie "the oil returns". Discard this oil, and then combine the meatballs with the tomato sauce.

Heat through so the flavours of the sauce and the meatballs mingle and everything is piping hot and then serve, scattered with fresh coriander leaves.