Authentic Karen cuisine

That is just a click bait. I have no idea whether there really is such a thing as authentic anything/anywhere cuisine at all. As authentic as Mom’s cooking? But every mom is different. Maybe broadly speaking? Like, pizzas and pastas cooked the authentic Italian (or name any local Italian town) way?

Here are the pics of Karen cuisine authentic to our little community.

The framework to this cuisine is simply guided by the following: 1. Easily available – thing we could buy from the market, just outside our centre, or something we grew ourselves; 2. Not easily perishable – normally roots (because they are tough and hardy), cabbage, cauliflowers, onions, garlics, aubergines – things that can keep for a week without refrigeration; 3. High in energy / protein – hence, lots of carbohydrates (rice, potatoes) and legumes (long beans, peanuts, all sorts of peas); 4. Meat (?) – a little chicken, sometimes a little pork, to stretch the entire week (and fit inside the tiny fridge), and cans of sardines; 5. Food from the rations list – not that we ration, but if we talk about “mom’s cooking”, these are the kind of foods they are accustomed to – fish paste, fish paste, and more fish paste, rice and more rice, canned sardined are added to give it some texture and some taste (and maybe nutrition?), chilli and more chilli.

I could not bear to write this down, but here we go with the cold, hard truth: the authentic cuisine would have been rice and more rice with fish paste, more fish paste, with tonnes of chilli. Everything else listed above are add-ons. The more fun add-ons were when we plucked bananas / papayas and made them into curry, or harvesting the peanuts and roasting them in the solar oven, tempura okras were good breaks from classes when we would just hang around together to fry them and eat them fresh from the spatula.

I would still say that the Karen food is nice. Good? Maybe not. But it was nice and heartwarming sharing a meal in such a big group, and the food was indeed tasty (with all the fish sauce, fish paste and chilli). However, there was only so much of it I could take in a week. However Chinese I am, there is only that much rice I can take a day (I stopped eating rice for months after I moved back home). Every weekend, we head back to the city (a two-street city) to stock up on more food provisions. I would fill my stomach with Western food and Thai food from morning till night. Sometimes even Chinese food. I would fill my heart with ice-cold long blacks, all through the day.

There was too a new cuisine I got acquainted with. Another tribal minority – Shan! When we stayed a longer period in the city, there was only that much meaty food I could take as well (life is about balance!). Thus, the breather would be Shan salads – be it ginger, tea leaf, or chickpea tofu – paired with a good ginger tea or Shan milk tea, curries and samosas. Would that be considered authentic Shan cuisine? Hah. I have no idea, I never lived there. But the ones I had were good.

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