I haven’t the slightest clue when I’ll see this food again. Maybe on a summer’s day in eastern Myanmar. Maybe during an especially ambitious session in my kitchen. Maybe at next year’s Moegyo Humanitarian Foundation Food Fair, a smörgåsbord of home-cooked Burmese food that joyously undoes New York’s lack of Burmese restaurants for one delicious day in Queens.
Events like these admittedly don’t make for the best post-plate recommendations – but they often offer the most direct and dear intersections of immigrant cooking with the various parts of New York. They’re magnets for the food-minded, bringing bloggers, meetup groups, and locals far and wide together over a tasting menu of another culture.
My favorite taste of the extensive Food Fair menu was one of several types of thohk (“salad”). Made from chickpea, not soy milk, the Burmese tohu in this dish is painted yellow by turmeric and is slow-cooked until its texture can reach a bridge between Jell-O and Jell-O pudding. After cooling and setting, the tofu is sliced, then tossed with lemon juice, fish sauce, peanut oil, crushed roasted chilies, bits of fried onion and garlic, and chopped lemon leaves. Each bite begins with a punch of fishy flavor, blossoms with the aromatics and heat of the dried and fried ingredients, and finishes on the slightly sweet taste of creamy chickpea curd.
Though a year will pass before New York gets another shot at this beaut, upcoming Burmese events are sure to be dutifully reported by one friendly Dave Cook. And thanks to one voracious Max Falkowitz, you can read more about the Food Fair and its trove of home-cooked Burmese food on Serious Eats New York.