I love traveling and eating the local food, like REALLY. But sometimes, when you’re sick all you (I) want is something familiar, something simple to remind you of home. And by sick I mean a mysterious illness possibly brought on by food poisoning or a case of heat stroke from a 3 day – 50 kilometer trek through the burning Burmese countryside.
That’s right, we were hardcore trekking and it was HOT. As if the trek in and of itself wasn’t enough on the last day D and I added an extra 45 minutes of running around after we got lost. Correction, not lost, but while I was in the bathroom D told our group to go on without us and that we would catch up. Not exactly the wisest thing to do in a small Burmese village with tons of back-roads and short cuts. Needless to say we started 2 minutes late and it took a good 45 minutes to find the group again. In the process I had nothing short of a near breakdown, having convinced myself that knowing only “hello” and “thank you” we would be stranded forever in this remote village. Also with D blaming me for putting us in this mess by waiting for the last minute to go to the bathroom this only added more stress to the situation.
Then of course there was the mirage. To our left, across 3 fields, in the distance we saw a group of people walking. They didn’t look like our trekking group but we were happy to follow any trekking group so we made our way over to them. After my slow attempts at hopping over bamboo fences (it’s incredible what they can do with bamboo in Asia) we seemed to have lost them too. We climbed a hill for 360 degree viewing and still could not see them nor our group. The only consolation was that we knew we should only be a couple hours away from Inle – our destination, a word which luckily we could communicate to a local vendor who with a wave of his hand seemed to indicate we should follow the main road all the way. We were on our way, and after 20 more minutes our guide (a 16 year old child to be exact) came driving towards us on motorbike, waving happily.
We were saved!
Fast forward a few more hours of trekking, a boat ride and a search for a hotel and we could finally lay down. And this is when my sickness went into full bloom as if it had been waiting for just the right moment. I’ll spare you the details, but it’s the worst I’ve felt in 5 months of traveling.
All I wanted was some cheesy bread (my ultimate get well remedy). Essentially, it’s a slice of baguette bread, lightly buttered with a few slices of extra sharp cheddar. Fire up the oven to 350 and throw those bad boys in. 10 minutes later these heavenly open faced toasted are ready. The cheese is bubbly, the bread is lightly crisped, who wouldn’t feel better after eating this?
Since in Burma baguette bread is impossible to find, cheese is miserable and expensive and ovens even harder to come by I wasn’t even dreaming of getting some cheesy bread.
But maybe a poor excuse for a grilled cheese would do?
I sent D out on a mission for something resembling a sandwich. Something in between the spectrum of cheesy bread and BLT.
He arrived with a sad excuse for a sandwich. Imagine the worst tasting Wonder Bread you can find, untoasted, and filled with some sort of mixture of chopped tomatoes, mayonnaise and plastic-ky American cheese. Not exactly the cure of a meal.
The following day the search continued. I assumed a sandwich advertising itself as a “hot cheese sandwich” might resemble…a hot cheese sandwich. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The bread though toasted was completely cold and the cheese, far from melted, barely covered half the bread.
Switching the search over to potatoes, another comfort food I’ve been craving like crazy in Asia, also proved to be hopeless. You would think an order of french fries would be simple enough to get right, right? Not the case here in Burma. The fries seem to be thrown into oil way below the correct temperature resulting in soggy, oil drenched potato globs. Not a shred of crunch. And not even perfectly cooked through. Disappointing to say the least.
Thankfully, I’m feeling much better now and can abandon my search for a good sandwich here in Burma. Guess it’s back to the curries and rice dishes for now. For everyone else I’m sharing my mom and grandmother’s recipe for Russian home fries – one of my favorite comfort meals.
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- 4 potatoes, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, and thinly sliced
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 small onion, diced (optional)
- Heat skillet over medium heat and add 1 tablespoons oil.
- Add potatoes and cook, tossing occassionally until lightly crispy and cooked through.
- Add onions when potatoes are almost cooked through and cook until lightly browned (optional).
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Serve hot, with ketchup.