No, not well and certainly not always, but this week I started having conversations of substance that didn't follow the canned scripts of my textbooks.
And then this happened:
Yes, that is a dhosa, but it is a very special dhosa; it's a dhosa I only found out about because I ended up talking at length — in Burmese — with a man about how good the Muslim food here is. He asked me if I had had this and that (I had), I successfully referred to varieties of tamarind sauces and potato curries, and when we spoke of dhosas, he said there was a special one that came with fish-curry liquid that I could go get on 53rd street.
53rd street is rather dingy and untrafficked, so you can imagine the surprise of the vendor when I strolled up and asked for his specialty. His smile was incredible. More incredible, as I’m sure you’ve gathered, was the fish curry liquid itself, especially with his gorgeous dhosa and the egg fried into it. Wow.
Maybe I would have stumbled upon this place had I not spoken Burmese, and maybe I would have seen someone eating the trademark sauce and ordered it, but the fact that it came to me like a reward for all the hours of study made me almost cry.
And, as long we’re discussing Burmese Muslim food, here’s a snap of the young women who make my favorite chapatis and tamarind sauces.
And finally, how could I not share another of Chi Mya's (also Muslim) masterpieces: curried kidneys, dhal, okra, hot chili paste, cucumbers and two mystery vegetables (one a very bitter but delicious leaf, the other almost a cactus). I finally broached the topic of him teaching me, saying that next year I would speak well and he would have to show me how to make his food. He said he would. The master plan is coming together...