Burmese Lethoke (Le – Tho) is a rice dish that contains of rice, beef gravy, potatoes, noodles, tamarind pulp and dried shrimp among other things that comes together to make a unique plate every time. It’s a create your own plate kind of an experience. You will end up with a different flavor every time and no 2 plates are ever the same. The base ingredients are rice and the meat gravy, everything else is a up to preference and choice. I for example love a heavy hand of fried crushed peanuts, sesame seeds and noodles but my husband loves to go heavy handed on the spices. I also love the texture and freshness from cabbage but husband completely skips that. So you see no 2 plates are the same but I can guarantee you will end up with a delicious plate every time.
So, Burmese rice or Lethoke if you get technical is of course a Burmese dish like the name suggests. My grandparents who immigrated to Pakistan from India when the partition happened had been all over the region in order to establish business, Burma was also home to them for many years. While they lived there for many years they obviously got familiar with the cuisine and brought back a lot of the recipes with them. Burmese rice and curry khao soi are two of the most popular dishes we still make in our homes religiously and are one of the top family favorites.
Originally this dish does not have any meat, its only eaten with the dried shrimp chutney. My mothers side of the family still don’t eat meat in their lethoke, but both my fathers side of the family and husbands family need meat in theirs. So, you can skip the meat altogether if you want to enjoy it like the Burmese do. Also, in the original version rice vermicelli is used instead of the spaghetti, another one of the tweaks made along the way.
Let’s get a little technical now this is a make your own plate kind dish, so you will prepare everything and place it on a table, everyone will assemble their own final plate. Remember, a little goes a long way. You will first add rice to the bottom of the plate, along with meat gravy, then add toppings accordingly. I like to add a little bit of noodles, boiled potatoes, shredded cabbage, sliced onions, cilantro, 2 tablespoons full of tamarind pulp, 2 tablespoons of crushed fried peanuts, 1 tablespoon of fried sesame seeds, around 1/2 a tablespoon of roasted gram lentil powder, about 1/2 teaspoon or so of fried crushed chili flakes, a sprinkle of fried shallots, a few pcs of friend garlic, and lastly a little less than quarter spoon of dried shrimp chutney powder. It is optional and you can skip it altogether or use it sparingly if you are feeling adventurous. It is an acquired taste and is also very overwhelming in sense that it will take over your entire dish if you are not careful.
All the toppings can be stored in an airtight jar or ziplock bags in the refrigerator for up to 3 months for future use. I make a huge batch and store in the refrigerator and it lasts me for at least 5 future preparations. Double ziplock the shrimp chutney and store it in the freezer. This is such a beautiful and colorful dish and will surely be your family’s new favorite.
The curried beef gravy I use for this recipe is the same one i use for my curry Khao Soi, and you can most definitely most chicken instead of beef if you are health conscious. Keep in mind chicken cooks faster then beef so adjust cooking time accordingly.
2 lbs boneless beef/chicken chunks (small)
2 tbs of ginger garlic paste
1/2 cup crispy fried shallots
1 tsp of cayenne pepper
1 tsp of paprika
1/2 tsp of garam masala
1/2 tsp of roasted cumin and coriander powder
1/4 tsp of cumin
1/4 tsp Turmeric
Salt to taste
2 tsp sirach sauce
1 tbsp of sambal sauce
1 tbsp of soy sauce
1/4 cup Oil
Directions for the gravy:
In a pot, add all the ingredients, literally throw everything in the pot, add about 1.5 cups or enough water to cover the beef and a little more, leave it to simmer over medium low flame for about 1 hour until the beef is soft. For chicken do not add water, chicken will cook in it own liquid, if you want more gravy add water according to your desire. Once the meat is tender, cook it over medium high flame for a few minutes until the oil separates, and turn off the heat.
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- 3 Cups Basmati rice
- 3 cups water
- 1 tbsp Paprika
- salt to taste
- ¼ cup Oil
- Beef gravy
- 1 cup peanuts
- ½ cup Roasted split gram lentils
- ¼ cup Sesame seeds
- ¼ cup Crushed pepper
- 3 Medium Boiled potatoes (cubed)
- 1 cup shredded cabbage
- ½ cup Tamrind pulp (thick consistency)
- ½ Bunch Cilantro chopped
- 1 large Onion (sliced)
- ½ pkg Boiled noodles
- ¼ cup Fried crispy garlic
- ½ cup Fried crispy shallots
- Handful green chili chopped (Optional)
- ¼ cup dried shrimp Chutney (Recipe Follows) Optional and use sparingly
- Oil as needed
Dried Shrimp Chutney
- ¼ cup Dried shrimp
- 2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
- 3 Pcs Dried whole red chili
- 2 Tbsp crispy fried dry garlic
- Soak the rice in warm water.
- In a stock pot heat oil, once the oil is hot 3 tbsp of paprika. Once the paprika starts to change color adid 3 cups of water.
- Season the water with sale and let it come to a boil.
- Drain the rice and add it to the pot once the water comes to a boil.
- After the water is reduced by half in the pot, cover with a lid, reduce the heat to a medium low flame and let the rice steam until cooked thru.
- Once the rice is cooked thru, turn off the flame and fluff up the rice with a fork.
- In a pan heat a few tablespoons of oil and fry peanuts in it until golden. Remove from oil and drain on a paper towel. Roughly crush the peanuts in a good processor. Put them in a bowl.
- In a pan heat a few tablespoons of oil and fry sesame seeds in it until they start to turn golden. Remove from heat and put them in a bowl.
- In a food processor grind the roasted split gram lentil into a fine powder. Put them in a bowl.
- In a pan heat a few tablespoons of oil and fry crushed red chili flakes until the turn bright red. Remove from heat, add in a bowl and set aside.
- Cube Boiled potatoes and set aside in a bowl.
- Shred Cabbage, put it in a bowl and set aside.
- Boil ½ pkg thin spaghetti noodles according to pkg directions and set aside in a bowl.
- Make a thick consoistency tamrid pulp, put it in a bowl and set aside.
- Place fried crispy garlic in a bowl and set aside.
- Place crispy fried shallots in a bowl and set aside.
- Thinly slice a large onion and place it in a bowl and set aside.
- Chop ½ a buch of cilantro and place it in a bowl and set it aside.
- Chop a handful of green chilies and put them in a bowl and set aside.
- Put dried shrimp chutney in a bowl and set aside.
- In a plate add 2 serving spoons of rice, to this add 1 serving spoon of meat, now layer with all your favorite toppings, add as little or as much as you like. Remember everything adds up, so a little goes a long way. Add the dried shrimp chutney very sparingly, it is an acquired taste and is very strong. I recommend starting with ⅛ of a tsp if you are feeling adventurous or it maybe skipped altogether.
Dried Shrimp Chutney
- In a dry pan roast dried shrimp along with 3 choke dried red chilis until fragrant. Remove from heat and cool.
- Break the dry crispy fried garlic with hands into small rough pieces.
- Once the shrimp is cool, blitz it in a good processor into a fine texture powder. To this add toasted sesame seeds and dried crispy fried garlic.