At traditional restaurants in Myanmar, every meal begins with a complimentary plate of raw vegetables paired with a pungent gluten free dipping sauce. It can be a brothy dip or a relish like this one adapted from the Burma Superstar cookbook by Desmond Tan and Kate Leahy, but it almost always contains shrimp paste and sometimes ground dried shrimp. Every cook claims a unique version, but the best of these condiments packs in an incredible amount of umami flavor. Be ready to make your own shrimp powder by grinding up dried shrimp (available at Asian markets). Instead of cleaning out the pot after making the relish, do what Desmond’s aunt likes to do: stir-fry day-old rice in it to soak up the leftover flavors.
Tomato-Shrimp Relish with Raw Vegetables Gluten-Free Recipe
- 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1-1/2 cups finely diced yellow onion, from 1 small onion
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon gluten-free shrimp paste
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 fresh Thai chile, thinly sliced crosswise
- 3 tablespoons dried shrimp powder (from about 1 tablespoon dried shrimp ground in a small spice or coffee grinder)
- 2-1/2 cups diced Roma tomatoes (from 4 to 6 tomatoes)
- 1 tablespoon gluten-free fish sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cucumber, sliced diagonally, for dipping
- 1 carrot, peeled and cut into sticks
- 1 bunch radishes
- 4 Thai eggplants, quartered (optional)
- 1 bitter melon (available at Asian markets), seeded, halved, soaked in water to remove some bitterness, and sliced into bite-size pieces (optional)
In a saucepan over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Stir in the onion, lower the heat to medium, and cook, stirring often, until the onions have browned around the edges and softened, 6 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is very aromatic, about 1 minute. Stir in the shrimp paste and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the paprika, cayenne, turmeric, chile, and shrimp powder. Then stir in the tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Lower the heat to low and cook, stirring often, until the liquid from the tomatoes has mostly evaporated and the relish has thickened, 20 minutes longer. Add the fish sauce and salt and cook 1 minute longer. Season to taste with more fish sauce or salt.
Stir before transferring to a serving bowl and serve with cucumber, carrot, radishes, eggplants, and melon.
Photography John Lee
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