I learned this dish from my friend and neighbor Amy, who is Burmese Chinese. According to her, there’s a type of leafy vegetable in Burma that has sour taste on the leaves, and is traditionally used to make this dish. However, this vegetable is hard to find in U.S. so she uses fresh spinach leaves instead. Despite of its not-so-appetizing look, the dish tastes just the opposite– it is especially good with a bowl of plain porridge or steamed rice. Extras can be freeze for a quick side dish served on the table on busy days.
Burmese Style Spicy and Sour Spinach (makes 2-3 servings)
2.5 lbs fresh small spinach leaves– see note below
3 cans (8 oz each) shredded bamboo shoots– see note below
1 1/2 bulk garlic– chopped
5 tbsp dried shrimp– soaked until softened, chopped
10 red hot peppers– chopped
1-1/2 cup cooking oil
1 tsp turmeric powder
2 tbsp paprika powder
2-3 tbsp fish sauce
2-3 tbsp tamarind powder
- Rinse bamboo shoots a couple of times, then blanch to remove any “can/tin” odor. Drain and set aside.
- Heat up 1 tbsp oil to a big pot on high heat, add in spinach (in batches if necessary) and stir. The liquid will start to draw out and the spinach will shrink down. Turn down to medium heat and cook for another 10 minutes. By this time all liquid should draw out from spinach already. Reserve about 1/2 cup of liquid in the pot and remove the extras. Stir occasionally and cook spinach until it’s very soft (mushy looking) and liquid dries out. Dish out.
- Turn heat back to high and add in remaining oil. Add in turmeric powder and paprika powder. Stir until the oil changes color. Add in garlic, peppers and dried shrimp. Saute until aromatic. Add in bamboo shoots and fish sauce (try 2 tbsp first). Stir for a few minutes.
- Return cooked spinach to the pot, adding tamarind powder(try 2 tbsp first). Stir to mix well. Taste, and add more fish sauce and tamarind powder if necessary for stronger flavor. Add a little more oil too if necessary (there should be little oil forming when it sets). Serve with steamed rice or plain porridge. Extras can be frozen in batches.
- Spinach leaves— I got mine from Costco (sold in 2.5 lb bag).
- Bamboo shoots— According to Amy, the recommended brand is Wei-Chuan 味全 as their bamboo shoots are tenderer. You can also use frozen bamboo shoots chunks if you prefer, but you’ll need to shred it.
- Since there’s salt in fish sauce and tamarind powder, no salt is used in cooking.
- Extras can be frozen.