Burma Superstar Author Kate Leahy on GT this Week, Plus Singapore with Sundar Ramen

Burma Superstar cover

If you are lucky enough to live in the San Francisco Bay Area, perhaps you regularly stop at the Burma Superstar restaurants to enjoy their take on Southeast Asian cuisine.  If not, I recently spoke with Kate Leahy, co-author along with Burma Superstar founder, Desmond Tan, of a fascinating book filled with authentic recipes, great photos, and stories about the country now known as Myanmar.  

A major part of Myanmar's cuisine is a fusion of Thai, Chinese, Indian, and Laotian influences. Many of the spices and main components will seem familiar, but how they are utilized to fashion finished dishes definitely captivated me.  Pay special attention when Kate talks about tofu, and eating tea or "Myanmar's most mysterious food."

Coconut Rice

A recipe for coconut rice is included below.  It's simple to do at home, and is perfect as a base for any meal during the day.

While coconut rice is more of a special-occasion starch in Myanmar, it’s a staple at Burma Superstar. The sweet, aromatic rice is a reliable partner for Coconut Chicken Curry (page 26) and Pumpkin Pork Stew (page 33), but it can be easily dressed up for dessert with slices of mango and a drizzle of condensed milk.<>!--break-->It is also easy to make at home in a rice cooker or in a pot. If sweetened rice isn’t your thing, leave out the sugar and reduce the salt to a pinch. If you want to go all out, serve with Fried Onions (page 208) on top. For the most aromatic rice, opt for virgin coconut oil over refined coconut oil.



112 cups jasmine rice 

1 cup coconut milk, well-stirred if separated 

1 cup water, minus 1 tablespoon if using a rice cooker 

2 tablespoons white sugar or chopped palm sugar (optional) 

12 teaspoon salt 

1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil


2 cups jasmine rice

113 cups coconut milk, well-stirred if separated

113 cups water, minus 2 tablespoons if using a rice cooker

2 14 tablespoons white sugar or chopped palm sugar (optional)

34 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons virgin coconut oil


Wash the rice well in fresh changes of water, draining through a fine-mesh strainer after each wash, until the water runs nearly clear, 3 to 4 washes. After the final wash, let the rice drain in the strainer for at least 15 minutes to allow the excess water to drip off. (The rice will dry faster if you place the strainer over a pot and turn the heat on for a minute.)

While the rice drains, combine the coconut milk and water in a 1-quart liquid measuring cup, using the corresponding amount of liquid for the chosen cooking method.

Stovetop Method: Empty the strainer of rice into a pot. Briefly mix in the sugar, salt, and coconut oil, taking care not to break up the kernels. Pour in the coconut milk and water. Cover the pot and bring to a boil. When the lid starts to rattle, remove the lid and give the rice a stir. Cover the pot and decrease the heat to the lowest setting. Cook for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit for 15 minutes. This allows the rice to continue to absorb the liquid. Fluff with a fork before serving.

Rice Cooker Method: Put the rice in the rice cooker. Briefly mix in the sugar, salt, and coconut oil, taking care not to break up the kernels. Pour in the coconut milk and water. Cook on the white rice setting. When the rice is finished, let it continue to steam in the cooker, ideally for 20 minutes, to allow the kernels to absorb all of the liquid. Fluff with a fork before serving.

Reprinted with permission from Burma Superstar, copyright © 2017 by Desmond Tan and Kate Leahy. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Photographs copyright © 2017 by John Lee.

 In the second part of the show I visit with Sundar Ramen.  Sundar lives in New York City, and is a frequent guest on GREAT TASTE.  He is my palate educator, and I always look forward to sharing meals with him when we travel to NYC.  Last time he was on the show he had recently returned from Cuba.  Sunday night he got back from Singapore, where he ate street food at one of the most famous night markets, enjoyed laksa-a spicy soup, coconut curry gravy over white rice with greens, and had other adventures in eating.  I can't wait to speak with him.