How to make Burmese quick and easy ‘rainbow’ salad

This is an extra recipe in between the weekly posts because I’ve been asked for this one several times. In the restaurant and at catering events, we almost always serve a salad with all our meals, as is customary to make a Burmese meal complete. It can go with anything, not just curries. If you add some bits of cooked meat, prawns of sliced fish cake, then you have a meal in itself. Serve on its own or with some plain boiled rice. For me, perfect, nothing else needed.

A little extra effort, if you have the ingredients at hand, can make this that much more special. Most Burmese homes will have all the additional ingredients in their store cupboards. (fish sauce, crispy onions or garlic and the oil they’ve been fried in, and toasted chickpea flour).

rainbow salad
Burmese basic rainbow salad

There is no real measurement as such for this. The amount you make will depend on how much you want to eat, and perhaps whether it is accompanying other dishes as part of a spread or whether being eaten on its own. Use your eyes and guess by sight how much you wish to make for each person. The end result should taste balanced. Between being well seasoned, fresh and zesty tasting, with perhaps a bit of a chilli kick, fragrant with herbs and a crunch from the crispy morsels of garlic or shallots. Below is an approximation for a side serving for 4.

Serves 4 – Ingredients;

  • 4 small handfuls of shredded red cabbage
  • 4 small handfuls of shredded white cabbage
  • 1 tomato sliced
  • 1/2 red onion very thinly sliced and pre-soaked in water, then drained
  • 2 small handfuls grated carrots
  • a big handful roughly chopped coriander
  • half as much roughly chopped mint leaves
  • 1 dessertspoon crispy onions/shallots or garlic
  • 1 dessertspoon oil, which the crispy onions/shallots and garlic have been fried in. (I’m afraid there is no shop bought substitute I can recommend – see below how to make it)
  • 1 dessertspoon fish sauce (more to taste)
  • 1/2 freshly squeezed lime (more to taste)
  • teeny sprinkling fine sea salt
  • fresh green chillies chopped or served whole on the side (optional)
  • roasted chilli flakes to taste (optional)


It is basically a bit of shredding and slicing and assembling, the latter preferably by hands. It does not have to be mixed until the last minute. You can prep it ahead of time. Use a very sharp knife for super thin shreds or a food processor on the shredding and grating blade settings, according to the vegetable being sliced or grated.

In a large bowl mix everything. It is normal to do this by hands, with a light touch. Leave out the crispy onions or garlic if you are not eating it immediately, and add when you are ready to eat.

In Burmese….Dah-beh! That’s it! ……….No video clips, it’s far too easy.

To Make Shallot or Garlic Oil;

  • Slice garlic or onions or shallots thinly and uniformly.
  • In 200 ml neutral cooking oil fry on a medium heat until golden and crisp. Stir occasionally.
  • Drain the garlic, shallots or onions on paper and reserve the oil.

The crispy morsels are used as crunchy garnishes, in salads, on ohno-kaukswe or mohinga….and they are also used to make up the basis of condiments and relishes, such as the Burmese beloved classic balachaung…(more on these later)


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