Sometimes I’ll just be sitting there, minding my business, when the thought of a food item or recipe will explode, fully formed, in my consciousness. Does that ever happen to you? No–just me? Whatever. Sometimes it’s a dish I had recently and I have a hankering for again, but sometimes, as with this particular dish, it is a craving from a long time ago. I have no idea why the thought of Kyauk Swe (pronounced “COW-sway”) stuck in my mind this particular day last week, but once it did, it took root there and refused to go away. So I had to make it.
First problem I had was that I did not have any besan. Besan is chick-pea flour, and not something you necessarily have on hand or find at your local grocery. Since the craving refused to budge, I had to go to an Indian grocery to get some. (The best part of that was that our favorite Thai restaurant is right across the street, so there was a side trip involved.)
Armed with the besan, I was able to construct this spectacular, mild curry dish with ease. There are a lot of ingredients, but many of them are garnishes and you can pick and choose which ones you include.
I halved this recipe, but it still makes a ton. It’s a real comfort food, though, and I don’t have any trouble finishing it; I can eat it a few nights running.
The recipe comes from one of my older cookbooks, The Burmese Kitchen. This cookbook, of course, was written when Burma was still a thing, in 1994. I suppose you could call it “the Myanmar Kitchen” now.
Here is the recipe, edited a bit to reflect current package sizes.
On No Kyauk Swe
Chicken Curry with Coconut Milk Gravy and Garnishes
1 lb. boneless chicken
3 Tablespoons canola oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 inch of fresh ginger, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons paprika
3 Tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon salt
10 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups chick-pea flour (besan), soaked in 2 cups water for 30 minutes
1/2 lb. shallots, peeled and chopped
2 cups coconut milk
1 Tablespoon fish sauce
2 lb. fresh egg noodles, cooked and drained according to directions
1 cup onion slices, rinsed under cold water, drained
6 hard-cooked eggs, sliced
2 cups crispy fried noodles, purchased or homemade
1 cup chopped cilantro
dried hot red chili flakes
(I like Thai basil chopped up in mine too. If you have some, try it)
Cut the chicken into 1/2 inch cubes. Heat the oil in a large pan. Fry the onion, ginger, and garlic over moderate heat for 2 minutes. Add the turmeric and paprika and continue to stir fry. Add the chicken, fish sauce, and salt. Stir fry the mixture for 10 minutes.
To make the gravy, add the broth to the pan of curry, and bring to a boil over moderate heat. Add the chick-pea liquid and cook for 20 minutes, stirring continuously since the besan has a tendency to stick. The gravy will begin to thicken.
Add the shallots as the gravy simmers, and cook for 10 minutes. Now add the coconut milk and fish sauce and cook for 10 minutes more, stirring constantly.
For each serving, combine in a soup bowl the egg noodles and chicken curry with gravy with whatever condiments you like. in the proportions that make you happy.