When Burmese people say they have a good time every month, they have a solid reason. The Burmese lunar calendar celebrates at least one festival every month. So, basically, Burmese people get to enjoy and take part in a particular festival featuring that month. For example, Tagu month (roughly in April) celebrates Water Festival while Thadingyut month (roughly in Octor) celebrates Light Festival. Different foods signify particular festivals. Among so many varieties of food, here are some of the most renowned food served in two monthly festivals in Myanmar.
1. Water Festival Rice Set (Thingyan Hta Min)
Water festival rice set, known as “Thingyan Hta Min”, is served in Burmese water festival (mid-April). It is another new level of the perfection of rice, which is neither congee or plain cooked rice, but it is a kind of dish, which manipulates rice in a unique way because the dish is basically cooked rice in scented water. It might sound exotic to those who have no knowledge of Burma or Burmese culture, but it exists. Though it is originated in Mon state, southern part of Myanmar, the food is eaten all over the country during the festival.
First, the rice is cooked and then rinsed to have a light and fluffy texture, and then, we use a candle to burn sandal wood to produce the smell, and it is put into the ice-cold water. Then, the sandalwood water is poured on top of the rice, which is served with various yummy side dishes such as fried dried fish, fried chillies, some pickled salads, pickled mango salad and other common side dishes.
2. Glutinous Rice (Hta Ma Nae)
Glutinous Rice, literally translated as Hta Ma Nae, is a festival snack Burmese people enjoy during the month of Tabowdwe, which is the 11th month on the Burmese lunar calendar (approximately in February). Not only do people make the snack but also competitions for making Hta Ma Nae are held in many pagodas all over Myanmar. It is not just simple glutinous rice, but more like a special kind of glutinous topped with fritters and garnish such as fried coconut, toasted sesame, fried ginger, and roasted peanuts.
The preparation takes a long time, careful measurement of ingredients, and patience. First, washing and soaking white and purple type of glutinous rice begins. After that, the rinsed rice is put on a giant pan where it is kneaded, crushed, and boiled with water and oil until it starts to become thick, and dark. After that, the combination process, which is considered the main process, starts to take place. Usually, three strong men are essential in the combination process. Two men hold large wooden spoons, which resembles rowing paddles, to begin mixing the rice dough while the third man coordinates the two spoons to make sure they do not slip off. Afterwards, other ingredients are added. Usually, Burmese people use toasted sesame seeds, roasted peanuts, fried ginger, oil, and fried shredded coconut. These ingredients then become evenly combined with the dough paste. Once the preparation has been done, extra ingredients of the same kind are put as garnish.
However delicious the Hta Ma Nae is, one should not consume too much lest it causes constipation. It is to be enjoyed with plain tea, which is Burmese’s favorite drink, as well as goes well with so many Burmese desserts.
By Paul Lu HAN, ASEAN Correspondent from Myanmar