Bagan Butter Beans
When traveling through central Myanmar during the dry season, a side of pale yellow beans is a staple. A couple of days ahead, cooks soak, strain, and then cover the beans to encourage them to sprout, making them easier to digest. This recipe modifies the process a bit, using easy-to-find dried lima beans and skipping the sprouting step. The rest of the dish is just as no-fuss, but if you want to dress it up, sprinkle some Fried Onions (page 208) on top when serving. Serve the beans alongside Pork Curry with Green Mango Pickle (page 36), Pumpkin Pork Stew (page 33), or any of the kebats (starting on page 81)
Makes about 3 cups; Serves 4 as a side dish
1 cup dried hibiscus flowers
4 ½ cups water
¼ cup white sugar or grated palm sugar
2 cups dried lima beans
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 cups diced yellow onion or shallot
Heaping ¼ teaspoon turmeric
Rinse the beans well in a colander, picking out any pebbles. Put the beans in a bowl and cover with 2 inches of cool water. Let soak for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Drain the beans and transfer to a 4-quart pot. Add water to cover by 2 inches. Place over high heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to prevent any foam from boiling over. Lower the heat to a gentle simmer and cook uncovered until tender, about 1 hour. Remove the beans from the heat, stir in the salt, and let the beans stand in their cooking water for at least 30 minutes. This will allow them to absorb the salt. At this point, you can refrigerate the beans and finish the recipe the next day.
Drain the beans, reserving the bean cooking water. Give the pot a quick rinse, dry it, and then heat it over medium-high heat. Pour in the oil and add the onions. Lower the heat to medium and cook until the onions have softened and are starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the turmeric and cook for 1 minute more. Stir in the beans and about 1 cup of the reserved bean cooking water and simmer gently until the beans have thickened, about 5 minutes more. The beans may fall apart as they cook, but this is perfectly okay. Taste, seasoning with more salt if desired.