For those of you who have not had semolina in desserts, this may come as a slight surprise. Yes people, semolina can be used to make sweet things!
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In South India, we make a semolina dessert called Kesari, which seems to be the origins of this Burmese dish.
A little unwanted history –
The British ruled India since the 1700s, and it wasn’t too long before they conquered Burma as well. Burma was made a province of India in 1886, and this resulted in a large migration of Indians to Burma (including my ancestors) who took on administrative roles in the newly established Government.
With this migration came the mingling of two large cultures, and you’ll find a lot of Indian influence in Burmese cuisine, even today.
This is one such example. The Shwe Gyi Mont / Sanwei Makhin /Sanwin Makhin is a Burmese Semolina cake that has clear Indian origins. This version uses eggs, but there is also a vegetarian version without eggs, which is pretty much the same as the Indian Kesari.
The addition of coconut milk adds the Burmese touch to this recipe. Also, this dessert is topped with poppy seeds, which I skipped here as it’s not a usual pantry staple in my home. But to be truly authentic, the Shwe Gyi Mont needs poppy seeds.
In honor of Upside Down Pineapple Cake day (Apr 20), I’ve also added pineapple here, purely as an alternate version. I just like the flavour combination of semolina and pineapple. Again, this is just me trying to tug on the Indian influence of this dish a little bit stronger. Feel free to skip the pineapple, as this dish is still perfect without any extra additions.
This is a twice-cooked cake – meaning that it is cooked on the stove before being baked in the oven, and here’s how it’s done.
First, you roast the semolina and combine with the rest of the ingredients till you get a watery, grainy batter.
You then let it soak, for the semolina to absorb some of the liquid.
After about 20 minutes, you cook it over stove until all the liquid is absorbed and the semolina begins to cook. At this point, you have a lump of a batter, completely unlike the regular cake batter we are so accustomed to.
You then divide this into ramekins (or into a small cake tin), smother it in butter and bake for 20 minutes.
You’ll notice that the butter is bubbling and spilling, but that’s ok. It’s all working towards creating a gorgeous golden crust for you.
Remove from oven, let cool and turn out while still a little warm.
As you see here, I’ve garnished them with pineapple flowers, as pineapple was used in the recipe. To make these flowers, slice pineapple very finely, blot out the moisture with paper towels and bake them at 225°F/100°C for an hour on a parchment paper lined baking tray, turning them over half-way through baking. Place inside muffin tins or small bowls to shape the flowers and let dry completely overnight.
Although it tastes extremely succulent when still warm from the oven, it reheats quite well, and tastes good cold too. Serve it with your evening cup of tea, maybe with a splash of cream, and you’ll find it quite a pleasurable experience and a nice change from the usual flour cakes.