Monday, 12 August 2013

Shan-Burmese Cauliflower and Carrot Pickle Recipe

Spicy Shan Cauliflower and Carrot Pickle - meemalee
Spicy Shan Cauliflower and Carrot Pickle

Pickling is in my blood. As you know, I'm Burmese, but Burma aka Myanmar is made up of over 100 ethnic groups. A large part of me is Shan, one of the more prominent of these ethnic groups, who primarily live in a rural, hilly region in Burma known as the Shan State.

Traditionally tall and fair, and cousins to the Dai people in Thailand, the Shan are rather fond of pickles (and noodles, and pork - often the three in combination).

All manner of Shan pickles for sale in Mandalay

The classic Shan pickle is mohnyin-tjin, but as wonderful as this is, it takes a little effort and patience to make (by patience, I mean at least a week, kimchi-style). 

This recipe is for one of my favourite overnight pickles, using cauliflower and carrot, both of which are hard to come by in lower Burma, but plentiful in the Shan State.

Spicy Shan Cauliflower and Carrot Pickle - meemalee

Though of course carrots and cauliflowers aren't rare in the UK, you may not find the pickling spice Shan hnan ("Shan sesame") in this country - although if someone can look at the photo below and let me know if you can get it here and what it's called, that would be brilliant.

I find however that black mustard seed is an excellent substitute in terms of both texture and flavour.

Spicy Shan Cauliflower and Carrot Pickle - meemalee
Shan hnan ("Shan sesame")

The vinegar that's traditionally used is a sweetish by-product from palm toddy-making, but malt vinegar works well instead.

Shan Cauliflower and Carrot Pickle
Shan Hbun-Mohnlar Kar-Jet-Oo A Tchin


  • 1 large cauliflower, broken into florets
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and sliced into thin half moons
  • 1 heaped tbsp caster sugar
  • Malt vinegar
  • 1 inch knob of fresh ginger root, skin on
  • 6 cloves of garlic, skin on
  • Groundnut or other neutral oil
  • 1 heaped tbsp chilli powder
  • Large handful of black mustard seeds

Put the cauliflower and carrots in a large non-reactive bowl with the sugar and just enough vinegar to moisten ie as if you're dressing a salad. 

Mix everything well, cover and leave overnight in the fridge.

Spicy Shan Cauliflower and Carrot Pickle - meemalee
Carrots and cauliflower pickling in sugar and vinegar

Remove the bowl of carrots and cauliflower from the fridge and have it ready next to the hob.

Chop the garlic and ginger roughly, leaving the skin on. Part of the flavour of this pickle comes from the skin - you can pick the bits out afterwards.

Spicy Shan Cauliflower and Carrot Pickle - meemalee
Chopped garlic and ginger with the skin left on deliberately

Heat a few millimetres depth of oil in a large frying pan on high till it sizzles, and add the ginger and garlic. 

Fry for a minute, and then add the chilli powder and the mustard seeds and stir-fry for another minute. 

Spicy Shan Cauliflower and Carrot Pickle - meemalee
Garlic and ginger sizzling in hot oil

At this point the seeds should start to pop and dance in the pan a little bit, and everything should smell fragrant.

Pick up the frying pan with both hands and pour the sizzling oil and all the bits in it onto the cauliflower and carrot.

Shan cauliflower and carrot pickle - meemalee
Mustard seeds popping in the hot oil

Mix thoroughly to "cook" the pickled vegetables.

Your spicy Shan cauliflower and carrot pickle is immediately ready to eat. It will keep in a jar or sealed Tupperware for a couple of days, but then will lose its crunch.

Spicy Shan Cauliflower and Carrot Pickle - meemalee
Mixed pickle

This Shan pickle is traditionally eaten in Burma with noodles and rice, but it also works in sandwiches and with hot and cold meats. 

Think of it as a type of piccalilli or relish - you can have it as part of a ploughman's lunch, with a pork pie, on a hot dog, in a burger ...

Spicy Shan Cauliflower and Carrot Pickle - meemalee
Doesn't last long in my house


  1. Freakinnnn love pickles. WOn't last long in my house either. Very interesting that you use malt vinegar instead of rice vinegar- can't wait to try this out. Need to hunt down that shan sesame, or might just try with mustard first. And love that extra special touch with frying the ginger garlic and seeds first- the fragance! Good one mimi, thanks for sharing! x

    1. No problem, Shu Han - and let me know if you find the Shan sesame! x

  2. I too love pickles! This pour-over thing is a new one for me, I've only ever seen that with dhal. I'll give it a try.

    1. Ah, I've never made dhal - will investigate :)

  3. Pickles make me sweat like hell but am very willing to give this a go, with roast porks yes?

    1. Oh yes! I had the pickle with lamb chops on Sunday :)

  4. My comment was eaten!
    Intrigued by this. Think my mum would like it a lot.
    Particularly fascinated by that hot oil temper that is poured over the fresh pickle, never come across anything like that before!

    1. I saw that your mum's site (Mamta's Kitchen) does indeed have similar recipes. Guess it's not surprising since we're from the same part of the world - same ingredients etc ;)

  5. I meant to comment before - this looks like my actual perfect thing - it is well documented that pickled stuff and cauliflower both make me cry salty tears of happiness, so this should (hopefully) bring me to the brink of death/ecstasy...

    One for later this week, I reckon :)

    1. Yes.
      And you make me the proper fermented awesome one :)

  6. i recently filmed a woman in Burma making stir-fried broccoli. but she always called it cauliflower. any idea why? she was originally from Pago, but then moved to Inle Lake.

    1. Broccoli has only been in Burma for about five years. Before, we only had Kai-Lan ie Chinese broccoli. The Burmese name for broccoli is hbun-mohnlar-sein ie "green cauliflower" because as far as we're concerned, that's what it is. Hope that explains ;)

    2. hey, thanks a lot! nice to read your comment.

      maybe you can help with my next question?
      Mon Nyuin is sometimes translated as mustard greens. maybe u have another translation?

      but my big question is: what is Yee Mon Nyuin? i know Yee means "water", right?

      and do you know how to make Hinto? the rice and green onion food served with dill.
      what are the ingredients?

    3. Yes, mohn-nyin is mustard green, but we have about 20 different varieties in Burma - some flat and some curly, some sweet and some bitter.

      The photo you emailed me is of yay mohn-lah - ie watercress. As far as I know, there's no such thing as yay mohn-nyin.

      I'm not sure what you mean by Hinto? I don't know that anyone in Burma uses dill, apart from dishes with Indian influence, so maybe it's an Indian dish?

      Or do you mean htamin-thohk - rice salad? It's very similar to let-thohk-sohn - ie Burmese rainbow salad - recipe here.

      Hope that helps! By the way, were you filming for a show - I'd love to see it when it's ready :)

    4. Peter says,this pickle improves with age,however I'm not share how long you can keep it for in the refidgerator ?

    5. Hannah, I keep it for a week maximum - it will still taste good for up to a fortnight but it will lose its crunch.

  7. Yummmm I have to try this! A bowl of steaming white rice and some pickles, and I'm a happy girl.


Thanks for taking the time to comment!