Every little roadside eatery in the southern coastal town of Dawei serves a version of this dish (pronounced “ka-gee kai”). The usual combination is squid, shrimp, and mussels or oysters. If you can find only two of the three kinds of seafood called for, increase the quantity of each, or add another that you like. In Burma the shrimp are cooked head-on and in the shell. Guests then suck all the flavor possible from them as they eat. If you prefer, you can remove the heads, or the heads and the shells, before you cook them.

The shrimp paste gives a depth of flavor, but you can omit it if you wish and just add a little extra oyster sauce or soy sauce. In my experience, the noodles in Dawel are always mild. That’s why the dish is served with hot condiments even though there are no chiles in the recipe. But sometimes as a variation I toss a couple of minced chiles in with the shallots and shrimp paste.

I like to serve one of the palate fresheners as a side, most often Shallot Chutney with Chiles. You can also put out a plate of sliced cucumbers or chopped tomatoes.

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Ingredients

  • ¾ pound head-on shrimp or pound headless shrimp
  • ¼ pound shelled mussels or oysters (from 8 to 10 mussels or oysters)
  • ¼ pound cleaned squid
  • 1 tablespoon Fermented Soybeans Paste or store-bought, or substitute 1 teaspoon brown miso paste
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 pound fresh rice noodles or ¾ pound dried rice noodles
  • ¼ cup peanut oil
  • ½ cup thinly sliced shallots
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon thinly sliced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon shrimp paste (ngapi optional)
  • 3 scallions, cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 3 to 4 cups bean sprouts, rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce or soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon minced Chinese celery leaves or coriander

Accompaniments

Method

Rinse the shrimp. Remove and discard the shells and heads, if you wish; set aside. Rinse the mussels or oysters; chop into bite-sized pieces if they are large, and set aside. Rinse the squid, chop the tentacles, and cut the bodies crosswise into ¼-inch-wide rings or strips; set aside.

Stir the mashed soybeans or miso into the water and set aside.

If using dried rice noodles, soak in a large bowl of cold water for 10 minutes, then drain and set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a wok or large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Set 2 tablespoons of the shallots aside and add the remaining shallots and a pinch of turmeric to the hot oil. Stir-fry for several minutes, until the shallots begin to soften. Add the garlic and stir-fry until lightly brown and beginning to crisp, 2 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to scoop out the shallots and garlic, pausing to let the excess oil drain off, and set aside.

Add the remaining turmeric, the reserved sliced shallots, and the shrimp paste, if using. Stir to dissolve the shrimp paste in the oil, then stir-fry until the shallots are translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the squid and scallions, increase the heat to high, and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the mussels or oysters and shrimp and stir-fry for 1 minute, then add the soybean or miso mixture. Cook for another minute or two, until the shrimp have just changed color, then turn out into a bowl and set aside.

Unless your wok is huge, you’ll need to cook the noodles in two batches: Divide the sprouts, noodles, and reserved cooked seafood in half; for each batch, use 1 tablespoon oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon oyster sauce or soy sauce. Put out a large platter. Place your wok over high heat and add the oil. Add the bean sprouts and salt and stir-fry for 2 minutes, or until the sprouts are just starting to wilt. Add the noodles and cook for 1 minute or so, pressing them against the hot sides of the wok, then turning them and pressing again. If using soaked noodles, cook them for an extra 2 or 3 minutes, until softened. Add the reserved seafood together with the oyster sauce or soy sauce and stir-fry gently, for a minute or so, until well combined. Add the chopped herbs and turn out onto the platter. Repeat with the second batch of the ingredients.

Serve on the platter or on individual plates. Top with the reserved fried shallots and garlic and squeeze on lime juice generously. Put out the remaining lime wedges and other condiments, along with a palate-refreshing side, if you wish.

Seafood Noodles with Egg

Sometimes these stir-fried noodles are made with only one or two kinds of seafood, and with thin strips of omelet. Make a simple 2- or 3-egg omelet (see Easy Coriander-Tomato Omelet, for guidance). Let cool for 5 minutes. Slice into ½-inch strips. Add to the noodles when you add back the seafood.

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