The stretch of road between Myitkyina and Bhamo, in Kachin State, has a particularly wonderful set of roadside restaurant stalls (see photograph), as does the Hpa’an-to-Rangoon road. They put out about twenty curries for customers to choose from. When a bus arrives, the businesses compete with one another for customers, then rush to get everyone fed. Whatever curries you choose come with rice and soup as well as steamed vegetables and condiments. It’s an amazing performance.
It was at one such roadside stall that I came across this full-flavored mushroom and tomato curry. It makes a good vegetarian main course (substitute soy sauce for the fish sauce) or a substantial vegetable side and is wonderful served nontraditionally over noodles or pasta.
Heat the oil in a wok or a wide pot over medium-high heat. Add the turmeric and stir until it dissolves, then add the shallots and cook over medium to medium-high heat until they soften without browning, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two, then raise the heat to high and toss in the mushrooms. Stir-fry, pressing the mushrooms against the hot pan until they soften and give off a little liquid, 4 to 6 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and, if using, the chile powder and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the tomatoes have completely broken down and the mushrooms are cooked through and tender, 5 to 7 minutes.
Add the shallot oil, fish sauce, and salt and stir. Cook for another 30 seconds or so, then turn out into a shallow bowl and serve hot or at room temperature.
Add 3 green cayenne chiles, coarsely chopped, when you add the tomatoes. The chiles give heat and another layer of flavor.
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