I have a major sweet tooth. HUGE. It’s why I insisted when I started this blog a year ago that I do at least one dessert from every region. I mean, by limiting myself to the familiar (sticky toffee pudding, chocolate cake), I would have missed out on the gloriousness that was the Cape Brandy Pudding, Meskouta and Sri Lankan Rich Cake. That would have been a travesty indeed.
I’m not sure if it’s ever been proven, but I will wager that a propensity towards sweets is genetic. While Mama Buddha’s vice of choice tends towards the rich and chocolatey, Big Buddha’s tastes were more simple: vanilla ice cream. Egg custard. And tea. Always tea.
I mentioned when introducing the tea leaf salad that tea is a big deal in Burma, and it definitely was in my house as well. Big Buddha had tea every afternoon, almost like he was English, but not. He drank what I learned in Nepal to be called “milk tea,”- a strong black tea based with milk and sugar. I remember as a kid making him his tea, and how particular he was about the color-not too milky, not too dark. Something like a deep caramel color. Like this:
I also remember going back to the kitchen more than once for a redo, and how I had to keep making it until I got it just right. Big Buddha’s other trick: evaporated milk. Not cream, not half and half, not milk. As weird as it sounds, it was delicious. So, if you ever find yourself in pinch and need to use evaporated milk for your coffee, just be warned that you may never switch back.
Today’s dessert, Shwe Gyi Mont, is a classic Burmese cake, and it’s a bit different than the traditional tea cakes that I’m used to eating in two main respects. First, like the Sri Lankan Rich Cake, it is made with semolina rather than all-purpose flour. Second, it’s partially made on the stovetop before being finished in the oven.
Don’t worry- it’s much easier than it may sound.
The result was a surprise. Tomato commented on the texture with reason- it’s kinda squishy. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; it would be a perfect accompaniment to afternoon tea, and simple enough that I know Big Buddha would have devoured it. It’s also vegan-adaptable, so if you’re of that persuasion, this cake’s for you.
Pre-thickened and sticky
- ½ cup semolina flour
- ½ cup packed light brown sugar
- ¼ tsp slat
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1 cup lukewarm water
- 4 TB butter or ¼ cup peanut oil
- 1 TB thinly sliced almonds
- Place the flour in a heavy skillet and toast over medium-high heat until aromatic and touched with golden brown. Transfer to a bowl and add the sugar and salt, then the coconut milk and water and stir to make a smooth batter. Set aside for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Set out a 6 inch pie pan or cast iron skillet
- Place a heavy skillet over medium heat and add the oil or butter. When the butter has melted or the oil is hot, add the batter and cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon about 20 minutes until thickened and sticky.
- Pour the batter in to the pan. Sprinkle the almonds on top Bake for about 20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. It will be very soft when done. Let cool completely, a few hours, before serving