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Crispies Galore
     If someone were to ask me to speak on our national institutions (no one has, so far), I would begin with bu-thee-gyaw(gourd fritters), which no Myanmar can do without.
     These sunny days, you walk along any road; you will see on the wayside a little thatched hut where a woman sits by the blazing fireplace on which is placed a large dai-oh (frying pan) half filled with sizzling oil.
     The dai-oh can hardly be called a frying pan, though used for frying all right; it is no flat pan but a huge iron pot concave in shape. A dugout fireplace makes a good seat for its curved base.
     The dai-oh can take a lot of oil and the woman while waiting for the oil to heat up prepares the ground fritters. Young tendergourd is used; pieces are cut into fingers and soaked in batter made of rice flour. As wisps of smoke rise from the surface ofthe heated oil the gourd fingers are put into it. They are fried till they become golden brown.
(Note: It is always a woman who runs the show; even if you see a man around remember he is only second in command. Myanmarwomen are always in charge of important things like crispie shops and they leave the less important things to men!)
     Around the hut are a few low tables each laid with a pot of plain tea, tea cups, plate of lettuce and corriander leaves and small dish of sauce. This sauce is a real appeiser; it is a concoction of hot chilli pulp, a dash of garlic and tamarind juice.
     You sit on one of the low wooden stools around the table and gulp down a cup of hot plain tea and bawl for a plate of gourd fritters.If you are early you wait drinking plain tea, which is free of charge, and watch the gourd fritters swim in smoking oil as the fire underneathcrackles and blazes.
     Perhaps some unbidden and unwelcome thought might come to you, a reminder of the cautionary tales you had heard in childhood, those tales of hell and fire. You try to switch off those thoughts by nibbling green lettuce with chilli sauce.
     At last the bu-thee-gyaw fritters would come right out of the sizzling oil. It is a favourite Myanmar snack. It is taken with lettuce, corrianderleaves and chilli sauce and with hot plain tea as chaser. In the same shop you cah also get other verieties, crispies made of shredded onions, bananas, potato chips to name only a few. All these are made with rice flour batter and fried in oil.
     Glutinous rice flour, jaggery, peanuts and sesamum seeds also feature in some of the varieties. The most well known is mon-see-gyaw , flat pancake.The basic mixture is glutinous rice flour sweetened with jaggery; the batter is ladled out into hot oily griddle; as the batter begins to thicken andcrinkle at the edges, sesamum seeds, peanuts and coconut shreds are sprinkled on the surface. When it is golden brown it is put on a bambooseive to drain.
     The other kind of crispie not as elaborate as mon-see-gyaw is mon-let-kauk or bracelet crispie; it is shaped like a bracelet, something like a doughnut. It is a doughnut anyway only it is made of glutinous rice flour. The dough is kneaded and rolled and made into bracelets and deep fried. It is unsweetened and it is taken with jaggery syrup.
     One can hardly speak of Myanmar crispies without mentioning the ba-yar-gyaw , one of the commonest kind. Dried peas are soaked in water overnight and pounded into paste and deep fried: it is seasoned with onions, garlic and chillies. There are several varieties of peas too and each tastes different, but all of them good.
     Crispie shops are a plenty on festival grounds which is often filled with the aroma of deep frying. Why get yourself a splitting headache by just taking in the smells, better enjoy your favourite crispie and give yourself a good time with the inevitable headache and a stomach ache as a bonus. One thing about crispies is that it is no fun taking them home to eat: they are best eaten right at the shop with all the paraphernalia and aromas. They are worth all the things you suffer the morning after.
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