Burmese Sauces

Ngan Pya Ye Chet

(Fish Sauce for Saute)


  • l teaspoon oil l large onion, finely chopped
  • l cup fish sauce
  • l stem lemon grass, finely sliced crossways, or 2 strips lemon rind, finely chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 spring onions, finely chopped
  • teaspoon chili powder


Heat oil in frying pan. Put in chopped onion and fry for a fear seconds, pour in fish sauce and bring to the boil. Remove from heat and immediately add lemon grass, garlic, spring onions and chili powder. Allow to cool.


by U Ba Than

Myanmar mango is the most popular fruit in our tropical land It is grown virtually in the entire country mostly on commercial scale, not only for local consumption but also for export Many households in towns and villages, with extra land space to spare also grow a few mango trees to enjoy homegrown fruit as well as to earn extra tea money to the bargain. In essence, nothing can ever match the texture, taste, freshness and satisfaction, and above all. the luxury of relishing natural ripe mangoes, plucked fresh from trees to savour at any time of the day.

Mango season in Myanmar begins after the seasonal monsoon rains, around November. By then most of the mango trees are covered with mango blooms. The earliest mangoes to enter the market, fetching a premiere price are from Mawlamyaing named locally as ‘ Ta Zu Meik’ round, yellowish fruit sometimes with a pinkish hue, and very sweet to taste. Mangoes are most abundant from April through May and tapers off till the early showers of the monsoon around July.

Myanmar mango is elitist as well as egalitarian. It is elitist in the sense that in the olden days some of the choicest varieties were reserved exclusively for kings and royalty But there is enough variety in the market to satisfy even the lowliest commoner. Some mangoes are named after the individuals who promoted them such as ‘Aung Din’, ‘ San Ya’, and ‘Aung Khin’ from Mandalay, and ‘Ma Chit Su’ from Yangon, just to mention the most popular ones Of course many varieties are localised in the sense that they do not reach the Yangon market. Yangon naturally is the final destination for the commercial plantation owners because of a wider distribution network and larger consumer demand, both local and abroad. For the mango connoisseurs Aung Din, though small in size has the most velvety texture, natural sweet taste and seductive aroma. The newcomers, Sein Ta Lone (Solitaire diamond), and Mya Kyauk (Emerald stone) are no less tasty, and a good export commodity. The saying goes that among meat pork is the best, among fruits mango is best, and among leaves ‘laphet (tea)’ is best. So one can well imagine the popularity mango has in Myanmar.

Mango is an all-time favourite seasonal fruit and is relished in many ways, from the earliest fruits following the blossoms to the well ripened ones, and also well beyond to the preserved preparations. And there is a ready market for every stage of its maturity. The early fruits are small green, tender and very sour. They are either peeled, or eaten with its tender green skin, as salad with the traditional pounded fish paste ( c O cccsc: ), fried pounded shrimp (C 0 6 F ) or salted fish sauce ( c oGq ~}1). Believe me it is a real appetizer gracing every Myanmar meal.

There are many other preparations for the green mango. It is sliced in half, rubbed with salt and dried in the sun till dehydrated. These dried mango strips are stored and can be made into spicy mango pickle, or sweet mango chutney, or candy depending on the ingenuity of the honourable housewife. The ripe mango is also enjoyed in many ways. It is sliced and taken as dessert. Just top one teaspoonful of Nestle cream on the mango slice and try it. Nowhere will you find such delicious matching taste, I bet. Another variation : dice the ripe mango, put it into mixer and whirl it into a thick natural syrup sans water. Then relax and savour the exquisitely velvety! texture, pure natural taste and soothing aroma available only in Myanmar. Some elderly grandmas partake ripe mangoes with steaming hot rice and a pinch of salt. They say it is a sort of health food. Mangoes are so plentiful during the season that the surplus are preserved in many ways to last Tills the next cycle. The most common preserves found in the market are mango jam, heavy syrup, juice, paste, pickle, shutney, dried strips etc. Described below are some of the popular recipes in Myanmar.

Mango Pickle Relish

from: U Ba Than


serves one army…:)

  • About 30 green (unripe) mangoes,
  • 5 ticals chili powder
  • 15 ticals garlic
  • 5 ticals cinnamon seeds.


  1. Slice the green mangoes into 4 large pieces Mix with salt and dry in the sun for 3 days.
  2. Pound chili powder with garlic. Deep fry with 25 ticals of pure vegetable oil and allow it to cool.
  3. Put the dried mangoes in a glass jar. Allow it to seep into the mangoes for 5. minutes.
  4. Add one tea-cupful of vinegar and 4 table-spoonfuls of sugar. Pound the mustard seeds.
  5. Mix with condiments

Sweet Mango Chutney

from: U Ba Than serves: a larger army than above…:)


  • About 50 green mangoes
  • sugar 3 kilos
  • white lime paste salt.


  1. Select green mangoes with seeds still tender and unmeshed. Cut in half.
  2. Pierce the skin with copper pin and soak them in lime water for 12 hours.
  3. Strain the mangoes and soak in clean water for another 12 hours. Change the water frequently. Then strain them and place them on a sieve to drain out water.
  4. Melt sugar in hot water and allow it to cool. The ratio of mangoes to sugar is around 2:1.
  5. Pour the cool sugar water on the treated mangoes and let it lie for one day. Then strain the mangoes.
  6. Boil the sugar syrup for the second time. Scoop the froth, then allow the sugar syrup to cool and pour it and keep for one night. After simmering for two times, put the mango preparation in a copper pot or receptacle and pour the sugar syrup over it. Then put the chutney mix on the oven and stir until it becomes sticky.
  7. Take the copper pot from the oven and allow it to cool. Store in glass jars and relish at will.

Tomato Shrimp Paste Dip

Tomato Shrimp Paste Dip


1/2 cup chopped onion 2 teaspoons minced garlic 3/4 cup chopped tomatoes 2 teaspoons or less shrimp paste 1/3 cup oil 1 to 2 teaspoons chili powder Large pinch turmeric 4 green chilies Salt to taste 1 small bunch coriander leaves


Chop onion and garlic finely. Skin and chop tomatoes. Soak shrimp paste in 1/2 cup water. Heat oil, put in onion, garlic, and chili with turmeric, and fry till fragrant. Add chopped tomato, stir, cover, and simmer till well cooked together. Add shrimp paste liquid and whole green chilies. Continue cooking till water is absorbed and oil appears. Add salt if needed. Chop coriander leaves and sprinkle on top after dishing up.

Crisp Shrimp Relish – Balachaung

Crisp Shrimp Relish



  • 2 cups dried shrimps
  • 2 medium onions
  • 10 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon tamarind paste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons shrimp paste
  • 1 cup oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon or more chili powder

Option: 1 cup of roasted and chopped peanuts


Wash the dried shrimps, drain, and let dry while doing the following:. Slice onion finely; slice garlic fairly thick, but evenly.

Soak tamarind in 1/2 cup water and extract juice. Strain if necessary and let shrimp paste dissolve in it till smooth. Pound or grind shrimps in electric grinder to powder but not too finely.

Heat oil in a wok, add turmeric, and fry’ onions till light brown. Drain off and set aside. Fry garlic till light gold and drain off. Into hot oil put powdered shrimps and fry till crisp but not too dark. Take pan off fire and drain off quickly.

Pour out oil and clean the wok. Return 2 teaspoons oil to it. Add tamarind shrimp paste liquid, a pinch of turmeric, and stir over fire to pre-vent burning.

As liquid disappears, add chili and stir till chili darkens. Return shrimp powder to pan and mix well over fire for just 1 minute.

Add salt if needed. Take off fire and let cool. When cool, mix in fried onion and garlic, and bottle, airtight, to use as needed.

Shrimp Paste Dip


  • 1 1/2 tablespoons shrimp paste
  • 1 bulb garlic
  • 6 green chilies
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon (or to taste) salt
  • 1 Lime
  • 1 small bunch coriander leaves


Spread shrimp paste on clay pot lid and bake over hot coals, or on foil in oven, till it begins to dry. Bake garlic after removing outer layers of skin, piercing with pin to prevent popping.

Bake chilies also till soft and darkened.

Peel baked garlic and chilies, discarding seeds if you prefer milder taste. Pound together garlic and chili skins till finely mashed. Put in baked paste and pound again.

Put into small dish. Add 2 tablespoons hot water. Mix in sugar and add salt to taste. Just before use, squeeze in lime, mix, and sprinkle with chopped coriander leaves.

Tomato Soybean Dip


  • 1 soybean wafer OR 1/2 teaspoon hot canned bean paste
  • 2 medium onions
  • 1 bulb garlic
  • 4 tomatoes
  • 4 plump green chilies
  • 1 teaspoon (or less) salt
  • 1 tablespoon chopped spring onion greens
  • 1 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves


If soybean wafer is used, toast it, cool, and pound. Set powder aside.

Take outer layers of skin off onion and garlic, pierce garlic cloves with a pin, and bake both on a hot sheet or in oven till insides are soft, turn-ing to bake thoroughly. Bake tomatoes and chilies till soft also.

Peel onions, garlic, and tomatoes. Take out chili seeds and discard. Pound all together, putting tomato in last when others are well mixed.

Add soybean powder, or paste. Mix, add 2 tablespoons boiled warm water, add salt to taste, mix, and serve sprinkled with chopped spring onion greens and coriander.

Crisp Soybean Relish


  • 3 soybean wafers
  • 2 medium onions
  • 1 bulb garlic
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • Large pinch turmeric.
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder


Cut soybean wafers with scissors in match-size strips and again to 1inch long strips. As soybean cooks and browns quickly, even cutting is important.

Slice onions evenly and finely. Slice garlic thick but evenly.

Heat oil in a wok, add turmeric, fry garlic light gold and drain off. Fry onion to light brown and drain off. Lower heat, fry chili, and drain off.

Put in soybean strips and stir to prevent burning. As soon as strips are cooked enough to crisp when cooled, turn heat off under pan. –

Mix in chili and salt, and when cool, mix in fried onion and garlic. Store in an airtight container and use as required.

Shrimp Paste Relish



  • 2 teaspoons shrimp paste
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 bulb garlic
  • 3/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons shrimp powder
  • 4 to 6 lime wedges
  • A few lettuce leaves or sprigs


Spread paste on clay pot lid and bake over hot coals, or spread on foil and bake in oven till it dries.

Remove outer skins of onion and garlic, prick garlic cloves with a pin, and bake them till soft. Pan roast chili powder till dark and aromatic.

Peel onion and garlic and pound them with chili till well homogen-ized. Put in baked paste, then dried shrimp powder, and pound till all is well mixed. Add salt if desired.

Shape pleasingly on a salad plate, surround with lime wedges and lettuce leaves.

This relish may have sour fruit such as young tamarind, green mango, or marian pounded into it, in which case lime is not necessary.

Onion and Lime Relish

This simple mixture accompanies so many dishes like fried rice, pillau, noodles, etc., that it is entered here for easy reference.


  • 1 large onion
  • 3 green chilies
  • 1 lime
  • Salt to taste


Slice onion and soak in water. Slice green chilies finely. Mix with drained onion, squeeze lime, add salt to taste, and mix well.

Sometimes coriander or mint may be added to this mixture.

Other relishes and dips can be cooked with differing proportions of the above ingredients, as well as with peanut powder, ginger, soy sauce, etc., according to taste.

Sharp Garlic Dip

(For Crisps or Vegetable Dippers Fried in Batter)


  • 1 bulb garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


Peel garlic and pound finely. Mix with chili, sugar, vinegar, and salt.

Serve in tiny dishes for dipping into.

This is a basic dip. Pounded ginger, soy, chopped coriander, etc., may be added as desired.

Sour Dipping Sauce

Serves 4


  • 2 Garlic Cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 teasp coarsely grated Root Ginger,
  • 2 tbsp Tamarind Paste, soaked and strained
  • 1 tbsp Honey
  • 1 teasp Sugar
  • 1 tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 2 teasp Fish Sauce
  • Salt and Paprika
  • teasp Crushed Chilli Pepper


1. Place all the ingredients in mortar and pestle and grind until smooth. Serve at room temperature.


Ambarella and Raisin Chutney


  • 1 kg/2 lb half-ripe ambarellas
  • 250 g/8 oz sultanas (golden raisins)
  • 125 g/4 oz raisins
  • 1 tablespoon finely crushed garlic
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
  • 750 ml/1 1/2 pints/3 cups white vinegar
  • 750 g/1 1/2 pounds/3 cups white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons/30 g/1 oz salt
  • 10 dried red chilies or fresh hot chilies
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 1 stick cinnamon


Wash and slice the fruit, discarding seeds. Put into a non-aluminium, heavy based saucepan with all the remaining ingredients, first breaking off and discarding stems of chilies and shaking out the seeds. Bring to the boil, stirring, and cook over low heat until thick, about 1 1/2 hours. Use a heat diffuser if necessary to keep chutney from scorching at base of pan. Fill hot sterile jars and cover with non-metal lids.

Burmese Dried Shrimp Relish


Mention balachaung to someone from Burma and watch them get misty-eyed over this popular accompaniment. It is served with rice, and even used as a sandwich filling by those who succumb to its charms. It may be crisp and dry, or it may be oily. I prefer the drier version.


  • 250 g/8 oz/2 cups dried shrimp
  • 20 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • or 3 tablespoons dried garlic flakes
  • 185 g/6 oz/1 cup thinly sliced shallots,
  • or 60 g/2 oz/1 cup crisp-fried sliced shallots
  • 375 ml/12 fl oz/1 1/2 cups peanut oil
  • 125 ml/4 fl oz/1/2 cup sesame oil
  • ground dried chilies to taste
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 cm/1 in square of dried shrimp paste
  • 1/2 cup vinegar


Put the dried shrimp into a food processor and process with steel blade to a floss. If using fresh garlic and shallots, fry them separately in heated peanut and sesame oil, not hurrying the process, until golden. They will become crisp as they cool. The best balachaung I have tasted was made by my mother and grandmother who did it the old-fashioned way, peeling and slicing shallots and garlic cloves. For ease one may use dried garlic flakes, but take care to keep the heat low and lift them out in a wire strainer before they darken, otherwise they will become bitter. Drain on paper towels. Pour off 1 cup of oil if you prefer a relish that is not too oily. (Bottle and use as flavouring.)

Reheat remaining oil and fry the prawn floss for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add chilies mixed with the vinegar, salt and shrimp paste. Fry until crisp, stirring constantly. Allow to cool completely before mixing in the fried onion and garlic, stirring to distribute evenly. Store in an airtight jar and it will keep for months.

Fresh Anchovy Relish

Serves 6


  • 250 g/8 oz fresh small anchovies, about 5-8 cm/2-3 in size
  • 2 pieces dried gamboge or small knob dried tamarind or half a lime
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
  • sprig of fresh curry leaves
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder


Wash the fish well, removing heads and intestines. Wash in several changes of water, adding gamboge, tamarind or lime to the washing water. Drain. Heat oil and add remaining ingredients. Fry for 5 minutes on high heat, then add anchovies, turn heat low and simmer for 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve as a hot relish with rice.

Hanglay Curry Paste


This is a Northern Thai/Burmese style of curry paste


  • 3 tablespoons of very thinly sliced lemon grass
  • 3 tablespoons of palm sugar
  • 1 tablespoon thick soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons dried red Thai chile peppers, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons of shallots (small red or purple onions), thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, grated
  • 1 tablespoon shrimp paste
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seed
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seed
  • pinch turmeric powder
  • quarter cup fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind concentrate mixed with 3 tablespoons water


Toast the coriander and cumin seeds until fragrant, and grate. Combine all the curry paste ingredients and process to a fine paste.

Shelf life

Will keep 3-4 weeks in a well stoppered container, or may be frozen (I suggest you freeze it in an ice cube tray to give usable portions for cooking without defrosting a large batch).