The notion for Hsa Ba, which means ‘Please eat’ in Burmese, grew out of author Tin Cho Chaw's desire to gather together a collection of her family recipes. After a trip back to her homeland in 2004, the chef – who moved to the UK aged eight - gathered together a hundred recipes calling on Burma’s diverse cuisine.
Burmese cookery is relatively unexplored compared to that of neighbouring India and Thailand. The food of Burma draws heavily on these countries, featuring Indian spicing, split peas, rice and vegetables alongside lemongrass, chillies, fish sauce and tamarind. It is these influences that make Burmese cuisine unique and delicious – and well worth looking into.
Unique doesn't mean unattainable – the great thing about these recipes is that anyone living next to a big supermarket would have no trouble getting hold of the ingredients to make them. In many of the dishes the most exotic ingredient is coconut milk. Like much Asian cuisine the recipes rely on a few staples – chillies, garlic, ginger to name a few – to add zing and freshness. Coriander features heavily too.
There are classic dishes here that some may have experienced in travels to Northern Thailand (large tracts of which were originally Burmese) including coconut noodle soup, known as khao soi in Thai and ohn nyot khaut swe in Burmese.
Seafood, meat and vegetables are all well represented along with a large selection of noodle recipes suited to cooking for a family.
The book is beautifully designed – no doubt down to the fact that all well as her cookery work, Tin Cho Chaw works in multi-media design. It contains stunning photographs – most taken by the author's husband – and beautiful examples of Burmese script. It’s a rich, engaging tome that opens up the under-explored cuisine of this little-known country.
Head over to her website to purchase the book and watch videos of some of the recipes being produced.
Hsa Ba by Cho Tin Chaw, published by Grassblades Ltd, £20.00