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Book review: The Rangoon Sisters, by Amy and Emily Chung

30 July 2020 by

The fish noodle soup mohinga is considered Myanmar's national dish. Traditionally made using catfish cooked with lemongrass, shrimp paste, ginger and spices, this warming aromatic meal – when prepared by the authors of this book – was described by The Guardian's restaurant critic Grace Dent as "the best thing I ate in 2017".

In their debut cookbook, sisters Amy and Emily Chung include two recipes for mohinga: a version cooked by their grandmother using pilchards – catfish is tricky to source in the UK – as well as a more complex, traditional take.

The double entry is a neat summary of the sisters' approach, who were born and bred in south London with Anglo-Burmese-Chinese heritage, which was reflected in their family meals growing up. It was 2012 before they first visited Myanmar (referred to by the authors under its former name of Burma throughout) with their mother, learning more about the cuisine through their journey.

A year later the two doctors held their first supper club in London under the name the Rangoon Sisters (Rangoon is the largest city in Myanmar – also known as Yangon). The dinners quickly amassed a large following and have propelled the pair onto the national food scene.

The book features recipes that are cooked within homes in Myanmar: a typical spread would include lots of small dishes for sharing, including slow-cooked meat, poultry, seafood and vegetable curries, which are "subtly spiced but full of flavour", served alongside fresh salads, vegetables, soups and rice.

The sisters introduce the fundamentals of Burmese cuisine, such as the importance of both the humble onion and oil, which is used to carry seasoning and flavour as well as acting as a preservative. One ingredient that will be new to many readers is lahpet, or pickled tea leaves, which can be served in a salad with fried beans and nuts, garlic, lime and tomatoes.

The Rangoon Sisters cookbook is a fantastic introduction to Burmese cuisine and the authors make for passionate guides, sharing asides that will inspire you to get the pans rattling.

The Rangoon Sisters , by Amy and Emily Chung (£20, Ebury Press)

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