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Burmese grilled okra with tomato shrimp relish

Updated: Jun 11, 2021

I was craving Burmese cuisine and so I cooked a meal with three recipes from the same cookbook. I balanced garlic noodles with two vegetarian sides, it was perfect to stll that craving.

I love okra and over the years have learned not to deep fry okra. I now spray them with a touch of olive oil, sprinkle some salt and seasonings if needed, and broil in the oven. They are fabulous with about 1/10th the amount of oil. Try it, you will be converted too! In addition, no more deep frying eggplant, you can use this same healthy method for that vegetable too.

This salad is a pop of authentic flavors. I was surprised by how much this cuisine loves the flavor of dried shrimp, and this recipe does exemplify that taste. The roasted okra are perfect with the pungent and fishy relish, spicy, tart and the flavor of umami. I love this dish, but will admit it is an acquired taste and may not be for everyone.

This recipe is from one of those cookbooks that I have missed on my shelf. One of the advantages of cataloging my library on this site is now I have visibility to some of these fabulous cookbooks. Burma Superstar is a fabulous restaurant, one that I have enjoyed many a meal at, and this recipe is no exception. The recipes re authentic, vibrant and delicious, it is literally like bringing the restaurant home. This is a cookbook you need for Burmese cuisine.

For more recipes from this amazing cookbook, click here.


For the tomato shrimp relish:

5-6 tablespoons oil

1 1/2 cups white onions, finely minced

11/4 cup garlic, finely minced

1 tablespoon shrimp paste

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

1 teaspoon chili powder, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

3-4 Thai red bird’s eye chilies, finely minced

4 tablespoons dried shrimp, ground to a fine powder

6 tomatoes, finely diced

A few drops fish sauce

Salt to taste, note that the shrimp paste is very highly salted

For the okra:

1 lb okra, left whole with ends

Oil spray


Lime wedges

To make the tomato shrimp relish:

Heat the oil in a non-stick saucepan and sauté the onions on medium-low heat till lightly golden and soft, about 3 minutes. Do not let them turn a dark brown.

Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute till cooked. Add the shrimp paste and sauté for 1 minute till the paste gets aromatic, making sure to break up the paste. Add the paprika, chili powder, turmeric, Thai chilies and shrimp powder and sauté for 30 seconds, mixing well.

Add the tomatoes and salt and cook on medium heat till the tomatoes have broken down completely and you have wonderful sauce, about 25-30 minutes. Continue to cook till the liquids have evaporated and the oils begin to come out of the paste and fry it. Be careful not to burn the paste at this stage by stirring it very frequently.

Add the fish sauce and mix in. Take off the heat. Taste and adjust salt and spices. You are looking for pungent, salty and spicy. Perfect for the bland vegetables. You can make the relish ahead of time and store in the fridge for 2-3 days.

As a note, you can use this relish as a dip for crudités too.

To make the okra:

Wipe the okra down with a damp paper towel and arrange in a single layer on a lined baking sheet. Spray with oil and sprinkle with salt. Broil in the oven till beginning to char, about 8-10 minutes. Alternatively, grill till cooked. Remove and cool. In addition, I am an advocate of not wasting food scraps. The stem of the okra plant is delicious and edible.

To serve:

There are multiple ways to serve this dish. I like to make the presentation as nice as possible, so I add the relish in the center with the grilled okra arranged decoratively around the relish. Add wedges of lime and serve. Alternatively, you can toss the okra with the relish and serve with lime wedges on the side.

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