Although many Burmese dishes are influenced by neighboring countries, like Thailand or India, pumpkin curry is a uniquely Burmese dish filled with a distinct blend of sweet and savory flavors that will excite your taste buds and leave you wanting seconds. Over my many trips and meals in Myanmar, I find pumpkin curry becoming one of my favorite dishes. This traditional pumpkin curry recipe was given to me in Lashio, Myanmar by the mother of a dear friend.
Food in Myanmar is incredibly diverse, like the country itself, and dishes usually combine a variety of local, usually plant-based or seafood-based ingredients. Burmese food has not received the attention it deserves from the international food scene, in part due to the country’s isolation for the past 50 years under a repressive dictatorship. Burmese cuisine typically balances four fundamental flavors: spicy, sour, salty, and bitter. In Myanmar, food is customarily served with an assortment of accompaniments like soup, pickled vegetables, spicy chilis, boiled beans, sour curries, and steamed rice. This recipe serves four people and the preparation time is 50 minutes.
Burmese Pumpkin Curry
¼ teaspoon turmeric
1 dried bay leaf
4 garlic cloves
1 1-pound pumpkin or squash
2 dried spicy chilies
⅓ cup coriander, chopped
¼ onion, chopped
½ teaspoon chopped garlic
½ teaspoon salt
1¼ cup water
⅛ tablespoon cumin
2 tablespoons olive oil
Step one: For this recipe, I typically use a Kabocha squash instead of a pumpkin. Carefully cut the pumpkin or squash in half with a large knife, then scrape out the seeds and fibers in the center of the gourd with a spoon. Next, use a potato peeler or a knife to remove the skin (see photo).
Step two: Pour 1 ¼ cups of water into a large frying pan. Using low heat, add the garlic, onion, coriander, crushed dried chili, ginger, and bay leaf to the water.
Step three: While the ingredients in the pan to come to a simmer, dice the peeled pumpkin halves into thick cubes, about ½ inch by ½ inch.
Step four: Once the water in the pan is simmering and the onions appear cooked, add the diced pumpkin into the pan and mix. Place a lid on the pan and let pumpkin simmer for about 20 minutes while stirring every 2 minutes.
Step five: Add the cumin, salt, and turmeric into the pan. Lower the heat for the next 7 minutes while the ingredients cook (see photo).
Step six: Once the pumpkin is thoroughly cooked, even a bit mushy, add olive oil into the pan and cook for 3 more minutes.
Step seven: Serve with rice.