Candy making in Burma
Shortly after arriving in Yangon (Myanmar/Burma), I sat in a busy teahouse drinking a cup of local tea (fermented with sweetened condensed milk) reading a travel guide. Two English tourists walked in and, looking from side to side, they realised there were no free tables so asked if they could join me. Over a few more cups of tea we swapped a few travel stories. As a chef I naturally asked them if they knew of any good food markets I could visit. They told me of a few markets in Yangon, but one of their highlights was a factory in Mandalay that made sugar-cane candy.
Not knowing where the factory was I approached a motorbike taxi driver and asked if he knew of the sugar-cane factory. He looked at me with a blank face and shook his head. Unimpressed with his slightly rude manner I moved on to the next driver. He didn’t know either, but tried to persuade me to go on a journey around the city with him. Keen on the factory I declined and moved on to the next driver, who also didn’t know.
Tired and disappointed I decided to head back to the guesthouse. On the way home I stopped by a local bar. Being a solo traveller I asked two local guys if I could join their table. They accepted and offered me a glass of neat whisky directly out of an already half-drunk bottle. Even knowing how potent the local whisky was, I accepted a glass. (I wouldn’t want to appear rude!) We got talking. In broken English, they asked me the usual questions like where I was from, if I had children and how long I would be in Mandalay. I answered politely in English and the international language of hand gestures.
After chatting for a while I realised their bottle of whisky was empty and decided to buy them another. Before long the drinks were flowing steadily as the whisky started to numb the throat and went down a little easier.
Two bottles down and slurring, I decided I’d better get back to the guesthouse before they opened yet another bottle. As I was leaving I thought it wouldn’t hurt to ask if they knew of the sugar-cane factory. One of the men looked at me with a strange and confused expression and, surprisingly, said yes. Not understanding why I would want to go to such a place, he kindly offered to take me on the back of his scooter.
Even though he was drunk, I said yes because I knew this could be my last opportunity so, saying goodbye to his friend, I jumped on the back of his scooter. With the whisky wafting off the man in front of me, I started to think this may not have bean the smartest idea. We took off at a fast pace ...
To be continued in The Stranded Chef.
It’s no surprise that I found Lord Howe Island, or perhaps the island found me. It is an adventurer’s paradise – a remote south Pacific island where the landscape changes every minute with the light. Since 1997 I have cooked at a five-star resort for nine months of the year then explored the rest of the world in the off-season.
The Stranded Chef is greatly influenced by the fresh produce sourced from Lord Howe. Seafood, fruit and vegetables grown in pristine waters or rich volcanic soils untouched by the worries of modern living. Although I love balancing myriad flavours and textures, many times the best method is to simply let your fresh produce do the talking.
Not your conventional cookbook, The Stranded Chef combines tall tales with images that tell tales of their own and 70 recipes in a book designed to inspire audacious dreams, be they physical, imagined or culinary. Go on – dream your wildest dream and go for it.