Olive Magazine
A huge pan full of roast chicken thighs and rice with side dishes all around it

Danbauk (Burmese chicken pilaf)

Published: November 25, 2020 at 11:45 am
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  • Preparation and cooking time
    • Total time
  • A little effort
  • Serves 8

A fragrant chicken pilaf, danbauk is served at countless celebrations in Burma. This recipe comes from MiMi Aye, a chef, author and host of the Burmese Food & Beyond supperclub


Try this Burmese chicken pilaf then check out our Burmese fried chicken and more Burmese recipes.

Recipe author Mimi Aye says, "Full of sweet and warming spices, danbauk is often referred to as a Burmese biryani, but it owes more to Persian cuisine and, in fact, the name is derived from the Persian culinary term ‘dum pukht’. All cooked in one huge pot, it is served with great aplomb at the table, with a feast of crispy fish relish (floss), Burmese-style coleslaw, and refreshing sour soup on the side, all of which balance the buttery richness of the rice. Drinks are generally not served during a Burmese meal – instead, liquid refreshment comes as a broth or soup."

MiMi Aye is a chef, author and host of the Burmese Food & Beyond supperclub. Her new book Mandalay: Recipes and Tales from a Burmese Kitchen (£26, Bloomsbury Absolute) is out now. Find her on Twitter and Instagram @meemalee.


  • 1.25kg skinless chicken thigh fillets
  • 600g basmati rice, washed
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 125g salted butter, softened
  • 100ml natural yogurt


  • 100g cashews
  • 50g raisins
  • 16 cardamom pods
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 cloves
  • 4 strands saffron


  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp ready-made crispy onions
  • 1 chicken stock cube
  • 125g salted butter, softened


  • 75ml vegetable oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, cut into 2mm slices
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 125g tin mackerel in spring water
  • 50g tin anchovy fillets in oil
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp ready-made crispy onions


  • ½ a small head white cabbage, very thinly sliced
  • ½ red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 red or green chilli, thinly sliced into rings
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • limes, juiced
  • a handful mint leaves


  • 1 tbsp (see relish recipe) reserved garlic oil
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 litres vegetable stock
  • 100g watercress
  • limes, juiced


  • STEP 1

    Put the rice flavourings in a large bowl, add 200ml of warm water and mix well. Leave to soak for at least 1 hour.

  • STEP 2

    Put the chicken fillets in a large lidded casserole. Add the marinade ingredients and 100ml water, and thoroughly rub into the chicken. Marinate for 15 minutes.

  • STEP 3

    Cover the pan and heat on the hob over a high heat. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat to medium and simmer with the lid on for 20 minutes or until the chicken is just cooked through. Remove the chicken from the pan with a slotted spoon and cover with foil.

  • STEP 4

    Tip the rice into the liquid in the casserole and pour in the scented water from the soaked flavourings, keeping the solids in the bowl. Top up the casserole with enough water so it reaches 21/2cm above the rice. Stir in the cinnamon, sugar, butter, yogurt and all the reserved solids. Cover, bring to the boil, wait for 2 minutes and then turn the heat down to low. Cook very gently with the lid on for 20-25 minutes.

  • STEP 5

    Remove the lid, check that the rice is cooked (it should be tender and fragrant) and return the chicken to the pan. Mix through gently to combine the rice. Keep warm in a low oven.

  • STEP 6

    For the relish, heat the oil in a small frying pan over a medium heat, and fry the garlic slices for 2-3 minutes until they just start to turn golden round the edges. Scoop out the garlic (reserving the oil) and drain on kitchen paper.

  • STEP 7

    Put 2 tbsp of the garlic oil in a wok or frying pan (keep the rest for another recipe). Heat the pan over a medium-high heat, add the turmeric and chilli flakes and sizzle for a few seconds. Add the mackerel with its brine and the anchovies with their oil. Turn the heat to high, bring to the boil and use a wooden spoon or spatula to break up and stir the fish vigorously for 6-7 minutes or until all the liquid has been boiled away. Turn the heat down to medium-low, and fry the fish for 20-25 minutes, tossing frequently until the fish is moisture-free and crumbly. Add the sugar and toss and fry for another 5 minutes. The fish ‘floss’ should be a caramel brown at this point. Leave to cool, then stir through the fried garlic and crispy onions. Store in a sealed container in the fridge – it will keep for a month.

  • STEP 8

    To make the coleslaw, put the cabbage and onion in a large bowl of cold water and leave to soak for 10 minutes, then drain well and tip into a bowl with the chilli, fish sauce, sugar and lime juice, and mix thoroughly, preferably by hand. Allow the flavours to mellow for at least 15 minutes, then stir through the mint leaves just before serving.

  • STEP 9

    For the soup, heat the garlic oil in a large pan over a medium-high heat and fry the sliced onion for 10 minutes until softened, then add the stock. Bring to the boil, then turn down to a gentle simmer until ready to serve. Just before serving, add the watercress to the pan and allow it to wilt. Then stir through the lime juice and serve 1002in individual bowls at the same time as the danbauk, crispy fish relish, and cabbage and mint coleslaw.


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