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Cooks in Burma use ground turmeric, a bright yellow-orange powder, in many dishes. They add it in small quantities to the oil at the start of cooking. It fizzes a little as the oil heats, and then once it’s dissolved, in go the shallots and other ingredients.
Turmeric is an ancient ingredient from India, one long believed to have powerful medicinal qualities. It’s antibacterial (so it’s often rubbed on meat or fish before cooking), antiflatulent (it’s usually added to legumes in South Asian cooking), and anti-inflammatory. Now the West is discovering the truth of those beliefs: turmeric is being talked of as an “anti-aging” food because of its anti-inflammatory properties.
Thus adding a pinch of it to cooking oil not only makes culinary sense but is also a healthy practice. This isn’t surprising, for like cooks from India to China, cooks in Burma are very aware of health when they cook. It’s instinctive wisdom. And it starts with a pinch of turmeric.