Having jars of Burma basics made and ready to be used in recipes gives me a rich, “my cupboard is full” feeling and makes cooking food from Burma very easy. From left: Fried Shallots, Shallot Oil, Toasted Chickpea Flour, and two versions of Red Chile Oil—one strained and, behind it, one with the chile residue still in the oil.

Fried Rice with Shallots, made with green peas. It’s accompanied by a jar of Fresh Red Chile Chutney, a small bowl of cooked chickpeas (see Peas for Many Occasions), and, in front, a bowl of Fried Shallots (page 24).

Here you get two pantry staples in one: crispy fried shallots and delicious shallot oil. Drizzle shallot oil on salads or freshly cooked greens, or onto soups to finish them. You can fry up shallots each time you need them, but I prefer to make a large batch so they’re around when I need a handful to flavor a salad.

The trick with fried shallots is to cook them slowly, so they give off their moisture and get an even golden brown without any scorched or blackened patches. Once they’re removed from the oil and left to cool, they crisp up.

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup peanut oil
  • 2 cups (about ½ pound) thinly sliced Asian or European shallots

Method

Place a wide heavy skillet or a large stable wok over medium-high heat and add the oil. Toss in a slice of shallot. As the oil heats, it will rise to the surface, sizzling lightly. When it’s reached the surface, add the rest of the shallots, carefully, so you don’t splash yourself with the oil, and lower the heat to medium. (The shallots may seem crowded, but they’ll shrink as they cook.) Stir gently and frequently with a long-handled wooden spoon or a spider. The shallots will bubble as they give off their moisture. If they start to brown early, in the first 5 minutes, lower the heat a little more. After about 10 minutes, they should start to color. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally to prevent them from sticking to the pan or to each other, until they have turned a golden brown, another 3 minutes or so.

Line a plate with paper towels. Use tongs or a spider to lift a clump of fried shallots out of the oil, pausing for a moment to shake off excess oil into the pan, then place on the paper towel. Turn off the heat, transfer the remaining shallots to the plate, and blot gently with another paper towel. Separate any clumps and toss them a little, then let them air-dry 5 to 10 minutes, so they crisp up and cool. (If your kitchen is very hot and humid, they may not crisp up; don’t worry, the flavor will still be there.)

Transfer the shallots to a clean, dry, widemouthed glass jar. Once they have cooled completely, seal tightly. Transfer the oil to another clean dry jar, using all but the very last of it, which will have some stray pieces of shallot debris. (You can set that oil aside for stir-frying.) Once the oil has cooled completely, cover tightly and store in a cool dark place.

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