Cook Like A Restaurant: Make Burmese, Please! Ohn No Khao Swé At Home
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Fans of Jessie Nicely’s pop-up restaurant Burmese, Please! know to check Instagram regularly to catch the next drop of classic dishes like tea leaf salad and paratha flatbreads. Everything tends to sell out quickly, so if you haven’t had a chance to taste her food, or if you’re in the mood to recreate her restaurant’s dishes, you’re in luck: she’s sharing how to make ohn no khao swé, a coconut curry noodle soup. Using The Spice Hunter spices like turmeric and paprika, the resulting bowl is fragrant, warming, and reminiscent of Chef Nicely’s upbringing.
Growing up in the Bay Area, Chef Nicely learned about her Burmese heritage through food. “My mom has seven brothers and sisters,” she says, “and each of my aunts showed me how to make a different traditional dish.” Her mom—who is one of two siblings not born in Burma (now called Myanmar)—taught Chef Nicely how to make ohn no khao swé. It was an easy meal that came together quickly and didn’t require much fuss.
Chef Nicely developed a deeper appreciation for the dish when she moved to Canada for college and couldn’t always afford to buy the ingredients. She’d make it for special occasions like birthdays and potlucks. It was around the same time that Chef Nicely, who had always felt at odds with her roots, started embracing her heritage: “When I was younger, I had identity issues. I’m half-white and my classmates thought I was Latina. And my mom never talked about Burma, except when it came to food. But in college, I had this moment where I realized I missed the food I’d grown up eating, I missed my family, and I didn’t need other people to understand what Burma meant to my identity.” Fast forward a decade, and we have Burmese, Please!, which Chef Nicely runs along with being the editor-in-chief of the terrific quarterly food publication, Compound Butter.
Chef Nicely’s take on the coconut soup is sweet, salty, creamy, and crunchy all at once, topped with cilantro, chili flakes, slices of boiled egg, and fried “rice cakes” made from rice flour and split peas. Read on for her tips on how to make it.
Don’t Be Afraid to Substitute Certain Ingredients
The shimmering golden broth looks like it requires hours of stove time (and many years’ practice to get right). But Chef Nicely promises the recipe is not only beginner-friendly, but also “super riffable”—so if you’re making this at home, feel free to go wild with substitutions and creative additions, like swapping out the wheat noodles for regular ol’ spaghetti. Vegetarian? Use a bit of salt instead of fish sauce, and swap in tofu for the chicken.
That Said, Don’t Skip The Onion Step
There are some aspects of the dish that you really shouldn’t improvise, says Chef Nicely. When it comes to sautéing the onions, for example, “You don’t want to caramelize them. You want to fry them until the ‘sizzle point,’ as my mom would say.”
Season As You Wish
The toppings at the very end are highly customizable depending on your guests’ preferences. If they can’t eat spicy foods, omit the chili flakes. If cilantro tastes soapy to some people, skip it. But definitely do add in a squeeze of lemon or lime. the tartness really enhances the coconut curry flavor.
Make More Than You Think You Need
Finally, for best results, Chef Nicely recommends sharing the meal with friends: “I have friends I cooked with in college who will still send me photos whenever they make it.”
Ohn No Khao Swé
- 1 large brown onion, diced
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp of fresh ginger, minced
- 1/4 cup neutral oil
- 1lb boneless skinless chicken thighs (3-4 thighs), cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 tbsp of The Spice Hunter turmeric
- 1 tsp of The Spice Hunter paprika
- 2 tsp of The Spice Hunter curry powder
- 1 tbsp of fish sauce
- 2 cups of chicken stock or water
- 3 cans of coconut milk (13.5fl oz)
- 2lbs fresh round wheat noodles, cooked according to packaging
- 2 boiled eggs, cut in half
- 1/2 brown onion thinly sliced
- Fried wheat noodles
- Lemon or lime wedge
- The Spice Hunter chili flakes
- In a large heavy-bottom pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add onion and sauté until golden brown, translucent, and no longer holding any water.
- Add ginger and garlic, and sauté until aromatic but not browned.
- Add paprika and curry powder, and sauté until spices slightly darken. Stir often to keep the spices from burning.
- Slowly add chicken stock, being sure to scrape any food from the bottom of the pot.
- Add coconut milk and fish sauce, and let simmer on low-medium heat until the soup has slightly thickened, around 20 minutes.
- Turn the heat up to medium, and add chicken and turmeric. Let simmer for another 20 minutes, then check the chicken pieces to see if they’re cooked through.
- Once the chicken is cooked, taste your soup and add extra seasoning if needed.
- Add a generous handful of the cooked noodles to a soup bowl.
- Fill the bowl with broth and chicken.
- Top with half a boiled egg, a pinch of raw sliced onion, a handful of fried wheat noodles, a pinch of cilantro and chili flakes, and a generous squeeze of lemon or lime juice.
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The Spice Hunter team draws inspiration from local and global food trends to create high-quality products, like this bitter, earthy turmeric. This will help balance the coconutty creaminess of ohn no khao swé, while adding a shot of vibrant yellow-orange color. If you love the taste, Chef Nicely recommends adding a teaspoon more to intensify the flavors.
Part of what makes ohn no khao swé such a comfort food are its belly-warming flavors, such as paprika. We like this organic version from Spice Hunter, but depending on your preference, you could also add the sweet or smoky kind.
While you could easily make your own curry powder at home, we recommend this excellent pre-mixed version, which has cumin, coriander, and cardamom, among other flavors. A tip from the chef: sauté the spices quickly, so they don’t burn.
If you like a little fire, add an extra shake of chili flakes at the end. You could also add hot sauce or a spicy pepper.
“I always cook ohn no khao swé in a Dutch Oven,” says Chef Nicely. “You want something that can take a lot of heat.” Our recommendation: this minimalist beauty, designed by Dutch chef Sergio Herman. Its enameled finish makes for super easy clean-up.
For top presentation points, serve your ohn no khao swé in a circular bowl with a wide opening, like this lovely 8” stoneware option from Brooklyn-based ceramics company Beau Rush.