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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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Burma a name which is still more familiar outside the country than the official Myanmar, achieved independence in 1948 with the end of British rule, includes many different ethnic and cultural groups, in particular the Burmans, the Shans, the Chins, and the Mons. It has five terrestrial neighbours (india, bangladesh, china, laos, thailand) as well as a long sea coast. Important food crops include rice and sugar cane.

The similarity between the cuisines of Burma and Thailand is noticeable. However, it is Burma’s two big neighbours, India and China, which have probably exerted the greatest influence on Burmese cooking. This dual effect is symbolized by the choice which Burmese cooks frequently exercise between ‘Indian curry power’ (garam masala) and ‘Chinese curry powder’. Indeed, the Indian influence is perhaps most apparent in the form of aromatic seasonings and curry dishes. From China have come many rice and noodle dishes, soy sauce, and dried mushrooms; pungent fermented fish seasonings, described below, may well derive from the Vietnamese tradition of fish sauce, although fish sauces are omnipresent in the region and probably had no single point of origin.