When I was in Dawei, in southern Burma, I had a long conversation with a follower of the Sitagu Sayadaw from Rangoon. But we weren’t talking Buddhism, we were discussing food—specifically, noodles and where to find them in Rangoon. He gave me directions to several noodle shops there, including what is now my favorite, an unassuming place called Osaka. It’s near the Yegyaw market, at the eastern edge of the downtown, and it specializes in this spectacular noodle dish, pronounced “sway dong kao sway” in Burmese. Egg noodles are topped by pork in a coconut milk sauce, with a light broth served alongside to sip between mouthfuls of noodles. The other accompaniments all play a lively role in giving the dressed noodles texture and layers of flavor. It’s hard not to go there every day for breakfast when I’m in Rangoon, and when I’m not, this recipe is a good backup.

You can omit the broth or substitute any light broth for it.

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Ingredients

Broth

  • Scant ½ pound pork shoulder, chopped
  • ½ pound pork bones
  • 6 cups water
  • 3 shallots, coarsely chopped
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, trimmed and smashed
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce

Sauce

  • 1 pound boneless pork shoulder, cut into bite-sized slices
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric
  • About 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • ¼ cup minced shallots
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 dried red chiles, soaked in water for 10 minutes, drained, and minced
  • ¼ cup peanut oil
  • 1 teaspoon shrimp paste (ngapi), dissolved in ¼ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons Toasted Chickpea Flour
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¾ cup canned or fresh coconut milk
  • ½ teaspoon finely ground black pepper, or to taste
  • Salt (optional)
  • About 1 pound thin egg noodles
  • 1 tablespoon Shallot Oil

Accompaniments

  • About cups Fried Noodles
  • ½ cup coriander leaves and tender stems
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges
  • 1 cup finely shredded Napa cabbage or other chopped fresh greens such as Romaine lettuce or Belgian endive
  • ½ cup thinly sliced shallots, soaked for 10 minutes in cold water, drained, and squeezed dry
  • ¼ cup Red Chile Oil or store-bought

Method

Make the broth

Place the pork and bones in a pot with the water, shallots, and lemongrass. Bring to a boil and skim off any foam, then add the fish sauce, lower the heat, and simmer for 1 hour. Strain the broth (you will have about 5 cups). Set aside.

Place the sliced pork in a shallow bowl, add the turmeric and fish sauce, and turn to coat the meat; set aside. If you have a mortar, pound the shallots to a paste, then pound the garlic and chiles to a paste; set aside.

Heat the oil in a wok or heavy pot over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook for about 3 minutes, or until well softened and translucent. Add the garlic, chiles, and the dissolved shrimp paste and cook for a minute, then add the sliced pork. Cook, stirring and turning, for several minutes. Add the toasted chickpea flour to the water, stirring until smooth, and add to the pork. Stir briefly, then add the coconut milk and black pepper and simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning if you wish, by adding a little fish sauce or salt.

Meanwhile, reheat the broth and let simmer. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the egg noodles and cook until just tender, 5 to 7 minutes (less if using fresh noodles). Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Drizzle on the shallot oil and toss gently to coat.

Set out large bowls for your guests. Distribute the noodles among the bowls, then ladle the sauce over. Sprinkle on the fried noodles and coriander and squeeze on a little lime juice. Serve the broth in small bowls. Put out a tray with the other accompaniments.

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