Although I often go out for lunch at one of the street stalls, or grab something from the cafeteria and munch on it at my desk while doing various school tasks, I found myself in the teacher’s room heating up my lunch the other day. Like other times when I had wandered in there was a handful of ladies with a mix of foods in dishes spread over the table. Often I had noticed that the group of ladies will make one big meal for lunch right in the teachers room which is prepared with a range, multiple rice cookers, an electric kettle, and a variety of kitchenwares. If I have learned anything from my time here it is that you can make anything in a rice cooker.
I’ve seen them prepare and enjoy such group meals as cabbage soup (well, I think it was cabbage . . . you never really know with the language barrier being what it is) and rice based curry dishes. But today they had a whole different spread. There were a dozen or so small dishes filled with a range of different foods, both liquid and solid; there was a larger bowl that held four different “greens” and a giant pot of rice. One of the ladies that I usually saw cooking was holding a giant bowl and mixing together a bunch of the ingredients with her hand.
I approached one of the assistants that I knew and asked her what the spread was all about. She explained that it was htaminthote, which means rice salad. What you do is start with a white rice base and add a mixture of the other items depending on your particular taste. They gave me a bit to try that they mixed up for me (leaving out the spice) and I was really impressed that I actually liked it. When they offered me more I gladly accepted and asked if they would show me how to mix it myself. This is what they had for options, in the picture below starting with the large bowl and going around clockwise:
Cooked potatoes cut into small cubes
(Starting with the small container on the right)
crushed chilies/ chili powder
an oil based sauce to make it more sour (kind of like soy sauce)
dried ground prawns
a bean powder/flour
crunchy fried onions
chicken powder (like powdered chicken base for soup)
and the bowl of green stuff was oriental greens (I don’t really know what that means but it smelled and tasted like cilantro, maybe they meant herbs?)
I mixed up my own little bowl and added everything except the cabbage, chili powder, and greens. The ladies laughed at me as I tried to mix the salad with my hands, they told me that my bowl was too small but I thought I did a pretty decent job. I ended up making way too much and had about half of it leftover. But I was really surprised at how much I liked it – it was nice to have a dish that was not too oily and that I could make depending on my tastes. The idea is that every person mixes his/her own so they can make it how sour/sweet/spicy they want which was just perfect for me.