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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, March 2, 2005

Burma ginger salad packs crunch, zest

 •  Chef Barney Brown coming home to lend a hand
 •  New restaurants in Honolulu and on Maui

By Wanda A. Adams
Advertiser Food Editor

In Burma, ginger salad is a harvest-time celebration dish, composed of crisp-fried, crunchy vegetables and nuts with sweet, young, fresh ginger pickled in vinegar, all served in a fish-sauce dressing accented with dried shrimp. It's an alternative to the Burmese specialty, lap pat dok, a very similar salad made with fermented tea leaves.

Chef Barney Brown of the E & O Trading Co. restaurant chain was introduced to ginger salad by a San Francisco colleague, Amanda Bowman (whose mom lives here in Hawai'i, by the way). The first time he tasted a version from San Francisco's Burma Superstar restaurant, he just had to create one for his pan-Asian menu.

He tweaked the classic recipe, and it has been a huge hit with diners and food critics, too. He added green papaya, decided to use a house-made garlic oil instead of labor-intensive fried garlic slices, and added Napa cabbage for body. "Every bite you take, you get something different, a zip and a pop here and a zing," said Brown.

At home, you may wish to use the traditional serving style: The ingredients arranged on a platter, and dressed and tossed at the table. (E & O's version is tossed for you.)

This recipe may require a trip to Chinatown or an Asian market for raw peanuts, fish sauce, dried shrimp and fresh-grated coconut. Or you can use dried, unsweetened flaked coconut from a health-food store. You can use jalapeño peppers or omit the peppers if you don't care for heat. Brown likes to use yellow split peas but says he's had a hard time finding them here in sufficient supply for his restaurant; it's fine to use green ones.

E & O Burmese salad

  • 1 tablespoon yellow or green split peas
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened shredded coconut
  • Canola oil
  • 1/2 cup green papaya, cut into thin strips 2-inches long
  • 1 cup napa cabbage, cut into thin strips 2-inches long
  • 2 tablespoons ginger, peeled and cut into thin strips, 1-inch long
  • 2 tablespoons crushed dry-roasted peanuts
  • 1 tablespoon dried baby shrimp, chopped fine
  • 5 rings of red Fresno chilies
  • 1 ounce lemon-garlic dressing (see below)
  • 1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
  • 2 cilantro sprigs

Place peas in small bowls and cover with warm water; let stand at least 3 hours or up to overnight. Drain well and pat dry.

In a 10- to 12-inch frying pan over medium heat, stir coconut often until golden, about 8 minutes; pour out and set aside. Add a little canola oil to pan. When oil is hot, add drained and patted-dry split peas and stir often until deep golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Lift out with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

In mixing bowl, toss together papaya, cabbage, ginger, 1 tablespoon of the peanuts, dried shrimp, chili rings and dressing.

Mound salad in center of plate and garnish evenly over the top with sunflower seeds, peas, coconut, remaining peanuts and cilantro sprigs.

The recipe below makes a lot of dressing; you can halve it or even cut it to a fourth. Be very careful when heating the garlic in the oil — the goal is to flavor the oil, not to cook the garlic; keep heat to medium or medium-low and watch carefully.

Lemon-garlic salad dressing

  • 2 cups canola oil
  • 1/2 cup garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup fish sauce
  • 2 cups fresh lemon juice

Slowly heat oil with chopped garlic and cook until garlic is just starting to turn color. Remove from heat to prevent garlic burning. Allow to cool completely.

Stir in lemon juice and fish sauce. Whisk before use.

• Per serving: 396 calories; 14 g protein; 27 g carbohydrate; 28 g fat; 7.2 mg cholesterol; 279 mg sodium