This is a Vegan version of the Mandalay Curry noodles, made with a rich tomato and chickpea curry base.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about causality – the game of cause and effect. I think it all began when I re-watched the movie ‘Lady in the Water’ a few weeks past. Many find M. Night Shyamalan movies a little too far fetched and nonsensical at times, and to those people I have just one thing to say: you can only understand a language that you have been taught to comprehend.
Apologies for the spoilers here, but in this movie, a writer is given a prophecy that his book will shape the lives of millions for the better. He finds it hard to believe: how can someone like him, a first-time author, simply penning his random thoughts have the power to effect such change? To which he is told that his book will find a way into the home of a child, whose thoughts will be shaped by the ideas in the book. This child will become a great orator, and his words will be heard throughout the world. He will become a leader of this country and his words will become the seeds of change.
The idea, that something you do, say or create can influence another and then another creating a chain reaction that cascades through time and space is one that I am unable to shake off from my mind. It is stuck there, in an intricate web of marvelous intrigue, and keeps growing in me, stronger everyday.
The reason I started this blog was because of causality. I grew up listening to my grandmother’s stories about her life in Burma before the war and the food she grew up eating. She painted vivid mental pictures with her words, about the tastes and smells of the food carts, the cashew trees in her backyard, the houses on stilts and the damp that clung in the air after the long monsoons. It instilled in me this yearning to understand new cultures through their food, and that curiosity burned in me much stronger than anything else I’ve done in my life. Food. While it was just sustenance to most others, to me, it was much, much more.
I am what I am today, because of that simple, singular part of my childhood, which my dear grandmother probably intended to only entertain us with. My brother listened to the same stories I did, but in me, it had a much stronger effect and dug its roots deep in me.
Causality. It is the reason I went searching for new Burmese recipes this morning. Having exhausted everything my grandmother taught me, I figured it was time to look for new recipes. I’ve been reading ‘The Glass Palace‘ by Amitav Ghosh, and I wanted to learn more about a few foods that were mentioned in passing (I take notes while reading!). One thing led to another and I found myself fascinated by this Mandalay Curry Noodles (Mandalay Mote Thi) on a Burmese blog.
Since we’re speaking of causality, I must mention that it was a reader who brought this book to my attention when she commented on the Burmese Balachaung post earlier this month. I couldn’t help but order it on Amazon immediately. If she hadn’t commented, I wouldn’t have bought the book, or went searching. But she wouldn’t have commented if I hadn’t written the post in the first place. And none of this would have happened had the Burmese-Indians not been expelled from their country. Causality, ladies and gentlemen.
This Mandalay Curry Noodles is traditionally made with minced chicken meat, but I decided to make mine with my favorite plant-protein instead: the humble chickpeas. Burmese dishes are so beautifully flavored, and as if that wasn’t enough, each dish is piled on with nearly infinite toppings at the table. This noodle is no exception, except the recipe is less complex that one would be led to believe.
There are simply two spices in play here: red chilli powder and turmeric, that season a rich tomato and onion base. The only other essential ingredient here is time. This curry is slow cooked for nearly an hour, and in this time, the tomatoes practically melt into a scarlet emulsion to create this striking red blanket with which the noodles will be covered in.
The chickpeas are my interpretation, but I believe even minced tofu would work well here, as will a medley of vegetables of choice. But choice is never a conscious thing, and in matters involving lunch and dinner, I find that more often than not, unintended leftovers are the clear winners over curated ingredients.
See how the curry coats the pale white noodles in a golden shroud, the sauce and noodle almost indiscernible to the uninformed eyes. One could easily be forgiven for thinking that yellow was the native color of the noodles from the start.
And don’t forget to stock the table with a host of toppings and condiments: thin slices of red onion, fried garlic, fried onions, crushed peanuts, chopped cilantro, chopped spring onion greens, toasted split-chickpea flour, lime/lemon wedges, jalapenos or other choice of peppers, chilli oil and finally my personal favorite: fried red chilli flakes.
Let your guests, should you be making this for a gathering, be a part of this topping ritual, give them free reign over which ingredients to choose, and which combinations to play around with. Rest assured, that no matter how meek or ambitious their pile is, the end result is going to be absolutely delicious nevertheless.
Before I leave you with your delicious bowl of Mandalay Curry Noodles, let me remind you to spend some time this weekend to think about the role of causality in your lives. Mankind is more connected than we give ourselves credit for and no amount of gizmos and gadgets can tear us asunder, although you can’t say it’s from a lack of trying. Your existence today is the result of a chain of reactions that began long, long before you could ever imagine. But most importantly, think about the chain you are starting today.
When you are at a coffee shop, paying for your coffee, a kind word to the cashier wouldn’t be the most inconvenient thing to do. And 9 out of 10 times, the person on the receiving end of your kindness could be rudely apathetic to your sentiments. But that magical 10th time, it could be a person who needed a kind smile that day. To that parched person, you could be the proverbial oasis in the desert of their life.
And before you do anything, think about the charges of societal repercussions you are setting off. In the larger scheme of things, you could seem a trite insignificant little thing, but never forget, it only takes a single pebble to send a thousand ripples over a still lake.