Myanmar – Refined Inle

It’s Mother’s Day in Nyaung Shwe… or at least it’s Sue’s day: a cooking class and a massage.  Our chef May Min picked us up at the  Apex 9AM sharp, and walked us over to the local market, where we made a morning of procuring the day’s goodies: garlic, ginger, lemongrass, green onions, fermented tea leaves, benas, cauliflower, kale, oranges, apples, just-plucked chicken and tilapia.  We hopped on bicycle tri-shaws for the short ride west to the Canal, and had a little adventure descending to the launch as Sue and May’s bike had no brakes.  Some friendly locals saved the day and halted the runaway tri-shaw… phew.

May’s brother-in-law loaded us on his longboat and whisked us south down the canal towards the lake.  Before we reached its mouth we veered left down and zig-zagged through increasingly narrow channels until we crossed the floating bamboo pole that marked the boundary of May’s property.  In the back is her cooking hut, recently built, neatly painted and complete with its own bathroom and dining deck.

May and her helper setup the ingredients and put us all to work dicing, slicing, cutting and chopping, explaining along the way the dishes, spices and techniques.  Ginger and garlic (fresh and crispy fried in oil) are the mainstays for many dishes along with turmeric.  Ingredients are massage and hand-mixed… Asians feel their food from prep to consumption. We deep-fried rice cakes and spring onion tempura, then stir-fried bean, cauliflower and chicken curries.  Max stuffed the tilapia with an onion tomato chili mix then topped it with lemongrass stalks before we steamed the fish and simmered chickpea soup on a charcoal fire.

Ben’s not an adventurous eater, but he was a good sport, participating in the cooking, trying a few things and quietly enduring the morning.  Max is our foodie, and he enthusiastically played the role of chief taste tester.  Soon enough our lunch was ready, and we set out on the deck to a delicious 8-dish meal.

After lunch May’s helpers toured us around her property in their dugout canoes… they’re quieter and much less stable than the big longboats, and we enjoyed a quiet toodle about the floating farm surrounding their large stilt house.  Returning to the dining hut we enjoyed oranges, sliced apples and a peanut candy before re-boarding the longboat; May’s father bade us farewell from the window of his grand home, and back to Nyaung Shwe we motored.

Back at the Apex, Sue and the boys took some down time at the hotel, and I rented a bike; ostensibly to scout restaurants and spas, but also to lose myself in Nyaung Shwe’s side streets.  Missions accomplished, I returned to set expectations and schedule a rub… the boys opted for some phone time, so in the late afternoon Sue and I left them and strolled back to the Aqua Lilly spa to enjoy our 1 hour Swedish massages… the spa was solid and the masseurs excellent… and the price was right at 1700 Kyat each ($14).  20 minutes to and from the Apex to pick up the boys and returned to last night’s pub for a safe pizza dinner and some pool before turning some laundry and packing up for Yangon tomorrow.

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