As mentioned previously, the Burmese love their oil. Your average Burmese-style curry is served with at least two fingers of the stuff; mohinga, the national noodle dish, often comes topped with greasy akyaw, deep-fried savoury bits; and many of the country’s snacks — particularly those sold in teashops — are deep-fried. The paradox is that Burmese vendors aren’t particularly skilled at deep-frying, and many of these dishes tend to be soggy and oily. But one deep-fried staple that the Burmese tend to get right is buthi kyaw, battered and deep-fried chunks of gourd.
I first encountered the dish in a small town outside Mawlamyine, in Mon State, where at the edge of a lake overlooking a dam, several stalls served this dish alone. It seemed an obscure tourist draw, but served freshly fried, the fritters were delicious: hot and crispy, concealing a soft, slightly watery interior of tender gourd. They were served with a sour/sweet dip that appeared to be made from tamarind pulp and a bit of syrup, but that could be savouried up to taste with bean powder:
Deep-fried gourd is also available in Yangon. My favourite vendor sets up shop every evening on the corner of Thein Byu and Anawratha Roads. It’s little more than a small wok and a few tiny chairs, but served with a similar tamarind-derived dipping sauce (and a communal chequered cloth for hand wiping), the deep-fried gourd here is one of the best snacks in town.
Buthi kyaw (deep-fried gourd) vendor
Cnr Thein Byu & Anawratha Rds, Yangon
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A recipe for buthi kyaw can be found here, at the Burmese cookery website, hsa*ba.