burmese coleslaw

cabbage salad

There are six of us for dinner, two are vegetarians but eat fish. There is little time to nip over to the Sydney fish market nor start something elaborate. I settle on a rustic hearty vegetable curry with pumpkin, sweet potato, carrots and courgette. I stir in a couple of teaspoons of coconut cream to richen the sauce and tone down the chillies.

I discover a quarter of a white cabbage left in the fridge and start to shred it ever so finely, wishing I had brought my mandoline with me, which would do the job in half the time. The careful attention to balancing the dressing of onion oil, tamarind juice, fish sauce and lime juice tossed with the cabbage makes a quick and easy Burmese coleslaw. It is refreshing, light and fragrant eaten with the curry and plenty of rice.


300g white cabbage, thinly shredded
small bunch of fresh coriander, chopped
small bunch of fresh mint, chopped
1 shallot, sliced thinly lengthways & soaked in cold water
1 shallot, fried in oil to make crispy onions
3 garlic cloves, fried in oil to make crispy garlic
1 tablespoon roasted chickpea powder
1 teaspoon dried shrimp floss


1 lime, juiced
2 tablespoons onion oil
2 tablespoons tamarind juice
fish sauce to taste

If you have already tried some thote recipes from the book, you will be familiar with the ingredients and have in your larder onion oil, dried shrimp pounded into floss and roasted chickpea powder. It takes no time to make the crispy shallots and garlic then prep the remaining ingredients.

I do think the fun of any Burmese thote is to serve all the ingredients laid out on the table and let everyone mix their own salad. When this is not convenient, throw all the salad ingredients in a bowl, add the dressing and mix by tossing the ingredients with your hands. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more lime juice or fish sauce. Serve immediately.

Serves: 4-6
Cooking time: 10 mins

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This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.


  1. Ebony on December 5, 2008 at 5:26 am

    I had burmese food for the first time at a restuarant called Burmese Superstar in San Francisco, CA and I have been hooked ever since. Unfortunately here in Detroit, Michigan we don’t have a Burmese population (not that I know of at least) and so there is no where I can go to have some Burmese food. I love your blog and recipes and I thought I’s stop by and let you know because I can try and make Burmese food at home with your lovely recipes. Thanks!

  2. Cho on December 8, 2008 at 6:41 am

    Thanks for your comment Ebony

    – Cho

  3. Sunnyboy on January 27, 2009 at 6:22 pm

    I love Burmese food. MY mom was born in Burma and lived there till she was 28. She settled in India later. We used to Mohinga, Lepet, Atthough, Kow Swe etc. Now, I am in Michigan and am ready to drive 4-5 hours to go to a Burmese restaurant. If you can let me know of anyplace in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan, please let me know.

    Thanks – P

    • Cho on January 27, 2009 at 11:52 pm

      Hi P
      It’s a long way to drive for some Burmese food! I have not come across any restaurants in the states you mention. You might be able to buy laphet via mail order from a couple of Burmese suppliers – have listed in my links.
      – Cho

  4. Acacia on February 4, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    I love Burmese food, but I haven’t been able to find any recipes that produce food as good as Mandalay Cafe (Silver Spring, MD formerly of College Park). If the secret is the onion oil, I think I may be out of luck. I’m currently in Nashville and the Asian markets around here are rather hit or miss. Is there any substitute or something I could make at home?

    • Cho on February 5, 2009 at 12:43 am

      Hi Acacia
      We use either onion oil or garlic oil – really easy to make it yourself. Just slice onions (lengthways) or galic thinly and fry in peanut oil. As soon as they are turning golden, remove from the oil. Don’t let them burn! Use the oil and the crispy onions or garlic in the salad.
      – Cho

  5. Joy the Baker on February 5, 2009 at 12:09 am

    This looks fresh and delicious. Totally something I could get behind! Lovely!

  6. Acacia on February 5, 2009 at 4:20 am

    Thanks for the quick reply. 🙂 We’re having this for dinner with Burmese Chicken Curry from What You Having For Your Tea (http://whatyouhavingforyourtea.wordpress.com/2007/07/23/burmese-chicken-curry-2/).

  7. Hputi on April 5, 2009 at 5:50 am

    Ebony, I also live in the Detroit area and am passionate about Burmese food. I was born in and spent my childhood in Burma. My siblings in San Francisco and Los Angeles have several choices of Burmese restaurants, but we have none whatsoever in Michigan. If anyone hears about a Burmese restaurant opening up, please pass the information along. Thanks…it’s been interesting reading all the comments and thank you very much for recipes on this site. I will be trying out a few over the weekend.

  8. Aunty Kitty on April 8, 2009 at 5:51 am

    Your cabbage thote is simple and appealing. Adding a few sliced fresh red chillies or a tomato I think will make the dish more colourful.

    • Cho on April 9, 2009 at 4:36 am

      Hi Aunty Kitty
      Thanks for the tip.
      – Cho

  9. Cryst on May 25, 2009 at 11:38 am

    Cho, i love love your recipes and website. I will probably try and get your book here in Singapore. The thing is there are tons of burmese restaurants in Singapore but for me I would love to be able to cook a hearty meal at home by myself. So I was wondering if you have Kyarzan Chet recipe? Is it available in your book? I don’t think I have seen it on your website.

    • Cho on May 26, 2009 at 2:31 am

      Hi Cryst
      You’re lucky in SG to have ‘little Burma’ with all the restaurants. I miss browsing through the shops there to pick up pickled tea leaf 🙂 I’m not exactly sure of Kyarzan Chet recipe you mentioned. Is it in a soup or fried as there are several I can think of.

      – Cho

  10. Cryst on May 26, 2009 at 4:00 am

    Aww, you should visit here again. True though, that its so a lovely feeling to browse through the burmese shops to find so many little packages of things which remind me our the childhood. Kyarzan Chet I was asking about is in a soup form. Clear glass noddle, chicken, with some yellow bean sheet and dried wood mushrooms if I’m not wrong. Ring a bell?

    • Cho on May 27, 2009 at 1:38 am

      I would love to visit SG again 🙂

      Yes I know the soup, will email you with details.

      – Cho

  11. Oliver B. Pollak on June 28, 2009 at 9:01 pm

    Michigan hungering for Burmese food may find some in Fort Wayne, Indiana

  12. Janis Chrissikos on July 21, 2009 at 6:46 am

    There is a Burmese restaurant in Fort Wayne Indiana on Calhoun St. called True Friend Tea House. There is also a Burmese grocery called Little Burma.

    • Cho on July 23, 2009 at 6:48 am

      Thanks for the info, Janis

  13. Ebony on September 16, 2009 at 7:30 pm

    Thanks very much Janis on the info that there is a Burmese restaurant in Fort Wayne and a grocery store too. Hputi it is nice to know there are others here in Michigan that are Burmese food lovers. I am going to have to order some laphet online through some of Cho’s links. Thanks so much again for this wonderful blog and I will be purchasing your book:)

  14. swaroop tagore on February 14, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    Am from india my mother was born in mamyo burma and she was an excellent cook of burmese dishes.i have some doubts here whats the name of fish sauce in burmese? and the burmese name for the shrimp powder you have mentioned? will you please mail me the names? this dish is very roughly made in chennai(india) and this is called athou i used to call it burmese coleslaw and was surprised to see you name this dish as i imagined. god bless take care and if you know the burmese names pls mail me. i am crazy about burmese food mohinga,athou,kawkswe,seejo ha ha ha.

  15. Jennifer Doliner on May 23, 2010 at 12:13 am

    I have a supply of balachung from my my Burmese mother-in-law, I use that in place of shrimp floss in this recipe and for noodle salad. It works really well!

  16. Dee on June 3, 2010 at 8:11 pm

    OMG I am hooked too after going to Burma Superstar. Searched EVERYWHERE for Burmese food- cannot find it in or near Ann Arbor, MI.

    I’m so glad I found this site. I found Burmese recipes on a different site, but those were really hit or miss to me.