When heading to Namhsan from Lashio or Mandalay, there is only one true roadside stop before beginning the three-hour-plus climb up the mountain. It’s a no-frills place with cell phone advertisements pasted on the walls, dusty dried goods on display, and a small open-air kitchen in the back. But it serves a decent menu, which you can wash down with tea or Myanmar beer. One day, while working on this book, we shared an order of this salad, intrigued by the inclusion of shredded dried mutton. On our way back down the mountain, we stopped at the place again, this time ordering two plates and heading to the kitchen to watch them put it together. We named this salad after that jewel-in-the-rough joint, Namhsan Restaurant.
The dried mutton used in Myanmar is hung up to dry as it cures and then is fried or smoked. Since sheep jerky is hard to come by in the United States, this recipe has been modified to use beef jerky. Look for a variety that’s on the firm, savory side. Teriyaki and Asian barbecue flavors tend to be too sweet. To shred the jerky, simply pull it into pieces along the grain so you get longer strips. A little jerky goes a long way, so while this salad only makes a small portion, it’s best to share it as part of a larger meal. It can also be made ahead.
Serves 4 as part of a larger meal
1 cup thinly sliced shallot
2 limes, halved
2 tablespoons peanut oil or canola oil
2 small dried chiles, broken into pieces
2 cups loosely packed shredded beef jerky (about 6 ounces)
½ to 1 Thai chile, minced
1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped
Put the shallot in a small bowl. Squeeze 1 lime on top and mix to coat.
In a very small saucepan, heat the oil with the dried chile until the chile just begins to crisp and darken, about 1 minute. Pour into a mixing bowl and let cool to room temperature.
Add the jerky, Thai chile, garlic, and a pinch of salt. Using your hands, mix well and taste, squeezing in more lime or adding salt if needed.