I could wax poetic about Khau Sway. I really could. I’m pretty sure that if I were ever to write a rap song, it would include some sort of ode to Khau Sway (Sorry Nayana!). Word. I absolutely love, love, love me some Khau Sway. It’s my comfort food, its my indulgence, its my nearly once a week meal and it is also strangely connected to my family. Burmese food, especially Khau Sway was unheard of till a few years ago, in spite of my dad having spent a large part of his childhood there. I saw it being served at an engagement party and that was it. It only took me a few seconds to decide that Khau Sway and I, we are in it for the long haul, baby. I’ve never enjoyed committing as much.
Recently, on my one-flipkart-book-a-month rule, I spied this gem. While I deliberated, or pretended to anyway, my heart was kind of set on this book. Hello? Local, authentic Burmese cuisine as it were, by the unbiased, unsuspecting eyes of a foreigner? Add to cart! It smelled like home to me. I think it was Nigella Lawson that said that the only way she likes to travel sometimes is through her food and cookbooks. I can’t seem to tell you how many expensive (and actual) vacations were foregone this way.
The idea of Khau Sway naturally gravitates toward shared eating and comfort eating. The soup is easy to come together, perfect to throw together for a gathering or a quick midweek dinner – essentially you boil the noodles separately, make the soup and ladle it over the noodles individually with an array of your favorite garnishes on top. It specially pairs well with your favorite TV show rerun and that old, comfy pair of PJs. Before this book, I made a curry fueled version and I’ve provided both recipes, but I forget where I got mine from. I know it was scribbled on a crumpled piece of paper for the longest time till I could recite it by heart. My version omits the toasted chickpea flour and essentially, makes a lighter version. It also uses curry leaves which keep things interesting. Please don’t ask me to choose which is my favorite. I couldn’t possibly. If I did, I’m pretty sure I’d have to write a country song instead.
Khau Sway, My Way
Serves: A greedy 4
Source: The Vanilla Bean Original (after many adaptations)
For the soup:
2 – 4 curry leaves
3 green chillies, slit in the middle
2 tsp oil
1 medium onion, chopped finely
3 – 4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp ginger, grated
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp cumin powder
4 chicken breasts, boneless, deskinned and cut into cubes
4 cups water
1 (200 ml) tin of Coconut Milk
Salt and pepper, to taste
1. In a fairly large saucepan, add oil and wait till it heats. Quickly, add curry leaves, chillies, minced ginger and garlic and onions. Saute for at least 7 – 8 minutes on low heat till onions are translucent. I like to add a pinch of salt to the onions so it brings out the moisture – but only a little bit so I can adjust the seasoning later.
2. Add chili powder, turmeric powder and cumin powder along with salt and pepper and stir it around so the onion mixture has absorbed the spices. Add the chicken pieces and stir around again but ensuring that the chicken is fully coated with the spices. Add water and cover the pot and let it continue to simmer on low flame for at least 40 – 50 minutes.
3. Finally, add the coconut milk and let it simmer for a little bit longer – another 7 – 10 minutes. Check for seasoning, adjusting if required and serve immediately with boiled noodles and condiments. Don’t keep the soup for too long after adding the coconut milk as it continues to thicken. If you intend to serve it later, make the soup until step 2 and add the coconut milk a few minutes before intending to serve.
Khau Sway, Authentic Burmese style
For the broth:
5 cups water
3 – 4 slices of ginger
1 medium onion, halved and peeled
4 chicken drumsticks, deskinned
1. To make the broth, add all the ingredients into a large saucepan and let it simmer on low heat for about an hour. Strain and set aside.
For the Soup:
1 tsp fish sauce
4 cups chicken broth
1/4 chickpea flour
1/4 + 1/2 cup water, divided
3 tbs peanut oil or sesame oil
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
3 – 4 cloves of garlic, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup canned coconut milk
1 packed egg noodles, boiled and strained
1. First, toast the chickpea flour in a small skillet. Place the skillet and turn up the flame to medium-high. Add the chickpea flour and toast it while gently stirring it around. It will begin to change color and turn dark brown and is incredibly fragrant. Remove from flame immediately and pour into a bowl and set aside. Before beginning the soup, add 1/2 cup water to the toasted chickpea flour and ladle some warm broth and whisk to make a paste. Pour into broth and whisk it in till combined.
2. To make the soup, add oil to a large saucepan. Add turmeric, fish sauce onions and garlic stirring often, till its fragrant and translucent. . Add chicken to the onion mixture and stir till all of the chicken is coated well. Add all of the broth and stir in salt and pepper. Finally, add the coconut milk and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for another 10 minutes before serving with noodles and condiments.
Fried garlic cloves
Fried onion slices
Boiled eggs, quartered
Red chilli powder
Spring onion greens
Salt and pepper
1. Using tongs, add noodles into the bowl and ladle the hot soup over it along with chicken pieces. Pour each condiment into separate bowls and serve alongside the soup and noodles so everyone can add what they wish to.