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The Rosi Recipes #2: Burmese Mutton Balls

I couldn’t resist. As soon as I read Nan San San Aye’s recipe for an aromatic mutton meatball curry, I knew it would be part of the next Rosi meal. Now, let’s get a couple of things straight. In Burma, “mutton balls” might very well mean goat testicle curry (which a friend recently referred to as “fighting balls”). In much of Asia, “mutton” means “goat.” And testicles are sometimes part of the diet. Interesting discussion here on the consumption of goat meat among immigrants to the US. But on our plates that night, we had Burmese lamb meatballs, Burmese butter rice and Burmese guacamole (which I’d been itching to make).

She’s still adorable, isn’t she? OK, on with the recipes, my notes in italics again. I had more meat than the recipe called for, so I upped the other ingredients.

Mutton meatball curry
Adapted from Cooking with Love Myanmar Style

450 grams mutton or lamb (I used 1.75 lb ground lamb)
1 cm ginger (I used a segment 1.5 inches long)
1 lemongrass stalk* (I used 1 1/2)
3 onions (after the previous week’s very oniony curry, I stuck to three small, mild onions)
2 cloves garlic (I used three)
5 tomatoes (I used 7)
1/3 cup oil
A little masala Indian spice**
A little paprika, turmeric, salt

*Make sure you chop the lemongrass finely before pounding, or you will end up with lemongrass slivers.

**I made my own masala, based on Camellia Panjabi’s recipe in 50 Great Curries of India. In a dry skillet, I toasted 3 2-inch cinnamon sticks; 1 1/4 tsp each of cloves, black pepper and cardamom; 1 tsp fennel; 1 bay leaf. After toasting, I ground into a fine powder.

Mince the mutton if it isn’t already. Mince in ginger. Slice thinly the lemongrass and pound with garlic. When smooth, mix half of the pounded ingredients into the mutton. Add salt, turmeric and masala; form into balls.

Heat the oil and fry thinly sliced onions with the leftover pounded garlic and lemongrass. When golden and fragrant, add chopped tomatoes and sweet paprika. When oil sizzles, add mutton balls and gently turn them to brown on all sides. When oil sizzles add enough water to cover and cook until oil sizzles again (don’t add too much or the curry will be watery). Sprinkle with more masala and serve.

Burmese butter and lentil rice
Adapted from Cook and Entertain the Burmese Way
by Mi Mi Khaing

1 1/2 cups raw split-pea lentils (I used corn, boiled and cut off the cob, because Mom is limiting her lentil intake due to adverse effects on Rosi’s digestive system)
2 1/2 cups raw rice
2 large onions
4 T ghee
4 cardamom pods
2 cloves
3 bay leaves
1 tsp turmeric or 1/16 tsp saffron (I used turmeric)
1 cup shelled green peas (didn’t have, so I didn’t use)
1 T salt

Wash and soak lentils ahead of time to shorten cooking time (if using corn, boil cobs, then cut off kernels). Boil lentils until halfway done. Wash and drain rice, slice onions.

Heat ghee, add spices and let aroma rise. Add half the sliced onion. When it begins to brown, add turmeric, remaining onion, green peas, lentils and salt. Stir well. If saffron is used, dissolve in 2 T hot water and add to the 4 1/2 cups of water for the rice.

Add rice, mix well, then add 4 1/2 cups water. Cover and cook over high heat. Stir once or twice before it comes to a boil. As water is absorbed, lower heat, shake pot with lid on. Continue to cook very slowly until rice is dry and fluffy, shaking pot once or twice more. (This turned out beautifully buttery — I love ghee!)

Burmese guacamole
Inspired by a breakfast buffet at a Yangon guesthouse

3 small ripe avocados
a drizzle of peanut oil
3 sliced shallots
a handful of chopped cilantro
a large pinch of ground chickpea or peanut powder (I used roasted peanuts to grind)
hot chile powder to taste
juice of 3 key limes
salt to taste

Remove pits from avocados and scoop the meat into a bowl. Slice the shallots, chop the cilantro and pound peas or peanuts. Mix all ingredients. (If you really want to make an authentic Burmese salad, mix by hand! This would work well with corn chips, as you would serve an ordinary guacamole.)

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