While visiting and exploring Inle Lake in Myanmar (Burma) in May, I had the rare opportunity to join a local family for lunch and actually assist in the preparation of the shared meal. How did I land in such a “locals only” lunch you may be asking?
No, I didn’t just crash the kitchen. Although you shouldn’t put it past me 😉
I had hired a guide for one day to see some of the local handicraft production “factories”. (Factory = thatch room on stilts, in the lake, accessed only by boat like everything else in Inle). My guide and I were chatting about food and my passion for trying local flavors and incorporating new things into my own cooking. He said his great Auntie used to be a professional chef for the royal family back in the day. I was impressed. He said she lived just a few miles away and would be happy to show me some of the local flavors if I was interested. IF! Of Course I was! So we turned our big dug out boat around and rowed off to Aunties house for a lunch lesson!
Everyone on the lake lives in thatch houses on stilts and Auntie is no exception. We pulled up alongside her dock, tied off the boat and entered her quaint and impressively organized little kitchen at the back of the 4 room house.
One room for cooking; one for communal time, one for sleeping and a bathroom/storage room. Auntie had a unique living situation. She and her brother lost their parents as teens and they stayed on living in the family home. Both later married and decided to share the house as a family. So they raised their children, all under one roof, and now both are widowers and still live together. Very sweet.
Auntie is getting on in age and she has severe arthritis as well as a hunched back so her sweet niece was my cooking companion. Although neither of us shared a verbal language we had no problem communicating with the language of the kitchen cook.
Our Menu –
Fried Local White Fish with Red Chile Paste/Chutney
Minced Pork & Spices Steamed in Banana Leaf
Potatoe & Chicken Curry
Lotus, Cucumber, Chile, Peanut Salad
The home was so humble with only a few pieces of furniture, mats on the floor for sleeping, a small table for food preparation and a small table to sit around for meals on cushions. However don’t think for a moment they are not a PROUD people.
Auntie dressed out the table as if it were a very special holiday. I was touched and made sure to clean my plate in appreciation.
She smiled alot after that 😉
They wouldn’t let me pay for the food so I made her accept a lotus/silk wrap I had purchased earlier that day at a weavers. I wrapped it around her frail shoulders and had my guide tell her how pretty the pink color (of course it was pink;) looked on her.
One more almost toothless smile made my day.