Wanderlust: Yangon, first impressions, pomelo salad


My taxi wound its way through an endless arterial road. We were heading towards Yangon downtown. Whenever the car stopped, which was often, I fanned myself – in vain – with the city walking map I found at the airport.

It felt like 90% humidity and close to 40C (100F). This is not Sydney winter anymore.

I was travelling alone, going into a country that I knew almost nothing about. When we were flying into the airport, I looked out the window and saw rice paddies, with golden stupas (pagodas) that stood out for miles around. If I were a child, I would have held my breath from sheer excitement. I whispered to myself, I am looking at a Burmese stupa. I am in Myanmar. I am a traveller in Myanmar. Exotic, humid, colourful, unknown Myanmar.

The taxi wound its way past concrete walls inscribed with the curly, circular Burmese script. Past men and women wearing longyis. Past a school where girls and boys wore white shirts and green longyis. Past more people, fruit stalls, durians, traffic, and there was my hotel.


That afternoon was a jumble of noise and wires and food stalls and people and more moments of holding my breath – as I walk between street stalls, past more durians, into the traffic to cross the road. Streets of British colonial-era buildings, decaying before my eyes, fern and moss reclaiming them for the swamp that Yangon was built on. Footpaths covered by street stalls, pedestrians walking, fearless, slow and longyi-clad, on the road.


Then I saw the Sule Pagoda, standing in the intersection of major roads, all lacey decorations and gold, rising gracefully, brashly from its surrounds. I was standing on a pedestrian bridge, half of the bridge blocked by clothing and hat stalls. One of the vendors tapped me on the shoulder. “Sule pagoda”, he pointed, “Chinatown”, he pointed in the opposite direction. A big smile that said welcome to Myanmar, teeth stained red with betel; and a dazed answering smile from me.


The next morning, I found the paratha vendor. There are many of them plying their trade around Chinatown, but this stall sold a mean paratha. This is the breakfast paratha of my dreams. Freshly fried, flaky, light, layered, quickly cut into pieces, with a generous swivel of condensed milk and a splash of sugar. Never mind the savoury version or the one folded around an egg, this is all about fried, condensed milk, and sugar.


~~~ ~~~

Then there were Burmese salads. Cooling, savoury, spicy, and a little sweet. Some were sublimely simple and others a marvel of mix and balance. For texture, there were peanuts, fried broad beans, fried split peas, other unknown fried things. For creaminess, the vendors added roasted chickpea powder. Herbs, chillies, green mangos, vegetables, known and unknown.


Here is a pomelo salad based on the recipe in Naomi Duguid’s Burma: Rivers of Flavor. This recipe uses a few ingredients for that mix of texture and flavours. I’ve also had simpler versions that were so refreshing in the heat (and blimey, the heat – !). The simplest was over breakfast at the Strand hotel, just pomelo mixed with orange juice and julienned mint leaves.

Pomelos are giant citrus fruits. Give a small child a pomelo, and you have a modern-day vision of Atlas carrying the world on his shoulders. Pomelo is a drier, more sturdy fruit, so if you use grapefruit, be ready to leave out the juice that will collect in the bowl after you have peeled each segment. Don’t have some of the ingredients? Try substituting for something else (within reason!!) – the result will be different, but probably still delicious.

Taking a bowl of this to Angie’s weekly linky party at Fiesta Friday!


Pomelo or grapefruit salad

(adapted from Naomi Duguid)


2 medium grapefruits or 1 pomelo
3-5 stalks of thinly sliced shallots (optional: soak in cold water for 10 minutes and drain – this reduces the peppery onion-y taste)
2 tablespoons fried shallots (or fried broad beans)
Thinly sliced coriander (1/4 cup)
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp neutral-tasting oil, or oil that has been used to fry shallots
1 tsp dried shrimp powder (Dry shrimps are available from Chinese/Asian grocers. Soak dry shrimps in water for about 20 minutes, then blitz to a fiber-y powder in a food processor.)
1 tbsp toasted chickpea flour (Chickpea flour or besan is available from Asian and Indian grocers. Toast a small amount in a heavy-bottomed frying pan until it is slightly more golden and no longer smells raw. Stir all the while to prevent burning.)


1. Segment the grapefruit or pomelo. Using a sharp knife, peel the fruit and cut away as much white rind as you can, and the fruit is exposed. Hold the fruit in your other hand and use the knife to separate the flesh from each segment from the rind or membrane.

2. Place the pomelo or grapefruit segments in a large-ish bowl. Add all the dry ingredients including the shrimp powder and chickpea flour. Then add the fish sauce and oil. Toss thoroughly and combine.


Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

33 thoughts on “Wanderlust: Yangon, first impressions, pomelo salad

  1. tinywhitecottage 26 July 2014 at 2:16 am Reply

    Glorious post Saucy. I enjoyed reading your thoughts and your photographs made the post even more enriching. I love the sound of Burmese salads and it’s great you have shared this unique pomelo salad recipe with us!

  2. Jhuls 26 July 2014 at 3:35 am Reply

    Wonderful, wonderful post, Saucy!! Glad that you brought Myanmar to us. I love love pomelo, especially when it’s really cold. 😀 Happy FF to you, Saucy!

  3. simplyvegetarian777 26 July 2014 at 6:16 am Reply

    I am so loving your travel memoirs. This is no exception. Livd the Pomelo Salad. Have read a lot about this salad. Yet to try :).

  4. Sue 26 July 2014 at 7:12 am Reply

    so wonderful! I have the Burma book by Naomi and have not made a single thing but now you are inspiring me!

  5. The Novice Gardener 26 July 2014 at 8:07 am Reply

    I want to go to Burma and look at that Sule Pagoda, it looks amazing. But mostly I want to eat that paratha and all the salads. Anthony Bourdain had a Myanmar episode and he said it was all about the toppings, especially for salads. The cuisine looks a lot like Thai, but seems more intense. Is that right? Did you try the fermented tea salad? I’ve been so intrigued by it. This salad looks so refreshing!

  6. Butter, Basil and Breadcrumbs 26 July 2014 at 1:05 pm Reply

    Happy Happy Fiesta Friday, Saucy! Oh.. such a wonderful post! Your photos are so beautiful, and I so enjoyed reading about your travels. I love living vicariously through you… I know that these are places that I’ll never in my lifetime see, so your travel posts are just so awesome to read!
    The pomelo salad is so beautiful…something that I have never heard of, and shocked to be quite honest to see grapefruit and powdered shrimp listed in the same recipe! While I’m shocked, I would totally try it, and I’m certain would love it! It’s the perfect exotic dish to bring to our table tonight! Thank you so much for sharing this with all of us… Beautiful post ❤

  7. chefjulianna 26 July 2014 at 3:18 pm Reply

    Yeahhh! Thanks so much, Saucy! This is what I have been waiting for from your trip! Beautiful travel and food photos! I think I have had a pomelo salad before, but I will try to make this one now. I love these flavours and they so remind me of my travels in SE Asia! 😀

  8. Fae's Twist & Tango 26 July 2014 at 3:42 pm Reply

    Very colorful post… narrative, photos and recipe. Pomelos are good. I have seen a similar Thai recipe, both fabulous!

  9. Margot @ Gather and Graze 26 July 2014 at 4:22 pm Reply

    Beautiful! If anything is going to cut through 40deg heat with 90% humidity, it’s this salad. It looks so very refreshing. Gorgeous narrative and photos – I felt a little like I was travelling with you for a moment there… 🙂

  10. lapetitepaniere 26 July 2014 at 5:03 pm Reply

    Saucy, the photos are amazing and wonderful narration. The salad look fresh, exotic and colorful like Myanmar

  11. marymtf 26 July 2014 at 8:23 pm Reply

    Living up to my name (contrary Mary) and am collecting ice cream and salad recipes in winter. Your salad looks lovely.

  12. Mr Fitz 26 July 2014 at 11:52 pm Reply

    Great traveling! Bon voyage.. keep plying us with these pics!

  13. Arl's World 27 July 2014 at 2:32 am Reply

    I am loving the travel and different foods. Such interesting pictures and dishes. The salad looks very pretty and tasty. The breakfast paratha sounded really good to me as well.

  14. spiceinthecity 27 July 2014 at 3:24 am Reply

    What a lovely photo essay Saucy! The jumble seriously reminded me of my hometown Mumbai 😀 & that salad looks gorgeous & refreshing 🙂

  15. Michelle 27 July 2014 at 4:49 am Reply


  16. Loretta 27 July 2014 at 5:47 am Reply

    Love, love, love this post. What a great adventure this has to have been for you. Thanks for taking us there via your stories and photos.

  17. love in the kitchen 27 July 2014 at 2:03 pm Reply

    Also love this interesting post & could practically taste the breakast paratha. Wonderful!

  18. Liz 27 July 2014 at 3:37 pm Reply

    thanks so much for sharing your travels! And yum to the salad 🙂

  19. A Home Cook 27 July 2014 at 9:29 pm Reply

    What beautiful photos. Thanks for sharing them this weekend.

  20. Jody and Ken 28 July 2014 at 12:02 am Reply

    Great sensual detail, photos and a recipe to try! A good friend spent a year as a nun in a Buddhist monastery in Myanmar, which always made me envious. Your post makes me feel the same way. Ken

  21. MadAvocado 28 July 2014 at 8:41 am Reply

    Really beautiful photos and that salad looks so fresh and yummy!

  22. Karen 29 July 2014 at 4:31 am Reply

    You truly do have a way with words in describing your trip…I almost felt like I was traveling with you. I loved seeing the sights of a place I know I will never have a chance to visit.

    • saucygander 29 July 2014 at 10:04 am Reply

      Thank you so much for your kind words! The country and its people left such vivid impressions, I’m glad I was able to convey some of those.

  23. Mary Frances 29 July 2014 at 5:32 am Reply

    another great travel post. That salad is beautiful!

    • saucygander 29 July 2014 at 7:51 am Reply

      Thank you, Mary. The simple version of the salad with orange and mint was really good too!

  24. Johnnysenough Hepburn 30 July 2014 at 10:31 am Reply

    The humidity! That would surely get me. Although, it’s the opposite for me. Damp! Which is worse?

    And I’m wondering if pomelo eaten within the country of origin is even better. I absolutely loved it when I was able to buy it here. But then, I adore grapefruit/anything citrus. Oh, and loving the idea of roasting the gram/chickpea flour. I’d happily chuck that on to stir-fries.

    • saucygander 3 August 2014 at 9:49 am Reply

      Johnny, it was humid and damp and hot!! But after a couple of days I got used to it, and it seemed kind of ok.
      Pomelos were better in Myanmar. All the fruit I had in Myanmar were somehow sweeter, more intensely flavoured, especially tropical fruit like mangoes, pineapples, mangosteen. Can you tell I want to go back? 🙂

  25. ninoalmendra 2 August 2014 at 2:44 am Reply

    Wow, love the real scene of Myanmar! Thanks for posting this, I never been to Myanmar. At least I see it thru your photos. Love the salad =)

  26. […] and blown away by the creativity out there. This week, Angie is ably helped by Aussie power duo,  Saucy @ Saucy Gander and Margot @ Gather and Graze who are in fancy dress – so I’ve come in flapper gear, […]

  27. Grapefruit Salad Saigon Style | 22 August 2014 at 5:02 pm Reply

    […] lives.  I first started to remember today’s recipe after reading Saucy Gander’s post about a Pomelo Salad that she had eaten while travelling in Myanmar. Memories of my husband and I in a little beach […]

  28. Obélia 19 December 2014 at 7:15 am Reply

    thanks!! we’re just back from Myanmar and wanted to get the taste of it in London so I was looking for recipes 🙂

Penny for your thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: