I was recently asked what I thought of the food in Myanmar when I spent a summer interning at Yangon Yoga House (YYH) and their co-joined vegan Nourish Café. Burmese cuisine is like none other in the world. The fruity-spicy combination curries and salads blew my tastebuds away (in a good way) when I visited the Bagan. I will forever be addicted to drizzling my everything with the fresh-ground red chili flakes that decorated each Burmese table. The ground peanuts that were a staple of dressings have forever elevated the use of a mortar and pestle as staple kitchen equipment. And the tea-leaf salads were uniquely delicious enough for me to seriously consider smuggling mass cartons of the fermented leaves across national borders.
Nonetheless, during my three months in Myanmar, I consumed far less genuine Burmese food than I would have anticipated. After an overly-ambitious breakfast of streetfood on my first morning in the county, I learned the hard way about the condition that ex-pats called “Burma Belly”. In other words, my sheltered American gut was far too weak to handle the local bacteria in the food, and its defense mechanisms were quickly overpowered. After 24 of the most grueling hours of my life (to make matters worse, I also had broken my ribs), the storm in my body finally calmed enough for me to teach my first yoga class at YYH. After class, I found my empty stomach growling loudly over the menu in Nourish Café. It was then and there that I learned to make my first Açai Smoothie Bowl. Upon tasting the nice creamy concoction, I instantly vowed to err on the side of caution when it came to eating in Myanmar by introducing Burmese food slowly to my diet while filling my belly frequently with clean-cooked Nourish food. And thus began my addiction to the frozen treat.
When I look back on my summer of eating in Myanmar, it’s not the tea leaf salads that come to mind, nor the red chili flakes, nor the fruit curries. Rather, the beautifully-decorated smoothie bowls are the first meal item that pop into my thoughts. Of course, I feel an undeniable twinge of guilt that my taste for smoothies fueled an ex-pat-driven domination of the economy rather than an economic upturn led by local tastes and leaders. That’s a conversation that will reappear in my book that I’m writing on yoga lifestyle around the world. It’s undeniably ironic that my best-learned cooking lesson from the country is the art and craft of smoothie making, a skill I could have learned in my own backyard. Yet life has a funny way of delivering its lessons, and this is definitely one that I brought home to Boston.
So what are the best-kept secrets to the art of the everyday smoothie bowl?
FROZEN BANANAS – The trick is to peel the banana and put it in a Ziplock bag BEFORE placing it in the freezer so that you don’t have to deal with the peel sticking lick glue to the banana’s surface. The second trick is to chop the banana into razor-thin wedges. I say this for the health of your blender. Trust me, I’ve learned this lesson the hard way by wearing down a handful of engines.
FROZEN FRUITS – Again, for the health of your blender, chop everything.
BLENDING STRATEGY – Do not force the blending process. Blend at a low to medium speed for 10 seconds or less. Stir. Blend again for 10 seconds or less. Stir and add more liquid if needed. Repeat.
TOPPINGS – Choose toppings that are thin enough to float on the surface of your smoothie bowl, such as thinly-sliced fresh fruits, homemade granola, thin coconut flakes, and chia seeds.
Ready to indulge in this easy-to-make tasty treat? Here’s the recipe:
(Makes 1 smoothie bowl; Double it to enjoy with a friend)
1 frozen banana
¼ C frozen fruit
½ - ¾ C non-dairy milk
¼ t ground cinnamon powder
1/8 t ground ginger powder (or other spices/flavors of your choice)
Toppings of choice
Chop your frozen banana and fruits to thin slices and place them into your blender.
Pour your non-dairy milk and spices into the blender.
Blend your concoction until smooth, following the “blending strategy” above.
Pour your beautiful creation into your bowl of choice.
Top delicately and artistically with your favorite things.
Before eating, don’t forget to photograph your edible artwork! Bird’s eye view shots work well for smoothie bowls, and lighting is key. Try to work quickly so that your smoothie doesn’t melt to a puddle. Hour-long food photography shots are not an option.
Okay, now you can eat it. Enjoy!