I first visited Myanmar when I was around 10 years old, in the 90s. I went with my mom and my little sister and met my family there for the very first time. We travelled a bit around the country (by coach), but spent most of the time away from the touristic circuits and stayed at my mom’s birth town. As you can imagine, it was a completely different reality from what I was used to. However, rather than shocked, I was mainly amused and fascinated!
I soon learned about Burmese food, which, like in Italy, is a big part of the country’s culture. Everyone was making sure that my sister and I were properly fed, and happy with the food provided. Yes, we had rice and curries, but also fresh tropical fruit (the real stuff) and a huge variety of snacks.
These snacks were not always prepared at home but they were often bought from vendors on the streets. In other words, street food 🙂 This was a new concept for me. Back in Italy, we would normally eat at home, occasionally in a pizzeria. We would get street food only during a holiday season or local fairs, and I’m referring mainly to cotton candy or apple fritters. So, my knowledge of street food was very limited…
In Myanmar, you could (and still can) buy and eat literally anything from the street stands: samosas, chicken curry, fish curry, noodles, chapati, deep-fried veggies, etc. You could go downtown and get food from the stands in the high streets, or you could get it directly out of your house from the travelling stand-holders, who were shouting, or better, singing at the top of their lungs what food they were selling, so that you could hear them from all corners of town.
Today, I am introducing a fried snack made from yellow split peas (Baya Kyaw). It is probably my favourite Burmese snack, after samosas, and it is a very straightforward recipe. However, it requires some preparatory work, as you’ll need to soak the split peas overnight or at least for half a day.
You can enjoy these snacks as they are, accompanied by a spicy sauce or chutney. They work well as delicious appetizers for a curry-based dinner. I recently had them as appetizers, before enjoying a warm bowl of Burmese coconut milk noodles soup!
Burmese Yellow Split Pea Fritters (Baya Kyaw)
Soak the split peas in a litre of water overnight or for at least half a day (4 hours).
Drain the split peas and put them into a bowl. Add 2 tsp of water and blend them with an immersion blender (alternatively, use a food processor) until you obtain a paste. Add the spices and remaining ingredients and mix well to combine.
Heat enough oil for deep-frying in a large saucepan. Line a plate with 2 kitchen papers. Take a generous tablespoon of split peas mixture and place it on your hand. Shape the paste with both hands into a disc. Carefully place the disc into the hot oil. Repeat with the remaining paste. Cook for 2 minutes each side until the fritters are golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer the fritters onto the plate lined with kitchen papers. Drain any excess oil.
Serve the baya kyaw hot. You should be able to make 10-12 fritters. They will be crunchy on the outside, but soft and moist inside!