Myanmar Pumpkin Curry

With thanks to my friend Daw Phyu, who always passes the most delicious food to me across the fence between our homes. Thank you for cooking with me and helping me to learn this recipe. I will always love your food.

A note about ingredients for making this curry: 

Lots of Myanmar curries have a seafood component. This dish, as taught to me by my friend Daw Phyu, often includes a handful of fresh shrimp and a teaspoon of fish paste. If you enjoy shrimp and have some on hand, I definitely recommend adding it to the dish. The flavors of pumpkin and shrimp pair well and give the curry a flavorful broth. In the interest of making this recipe accessible to the average north American pantry, I decided to write it without the shrimp, and substituted oyster sauce instead, for a similar flavor.

As you can see in the image below, Daw Phyu (who has incredible knife skills) didn’t pound them in a mortar, but thin sliced them straight into the pot. Because I didn’t include shrimp in this recipe, I decided to pulse the onion and garlic in a food processor in order to bring out a stronger flavor to compensate for the lack of shrimp. (also, I did this because I do not have Daw Phyu’s knife skills! one day, I hope I will!)


2-3 cups fresh pumpkin, chopped into bite-sized chunks

vegetable oil

generous pinch of turmeric

pinch of chili powder, to taste

water (approx. one cup; adjust as needed)

2 tsp. chicken/vegetable bouillon

(Alternatively, you can use approx. one cup of chicken or vegetable broth.)

2-3 shallots or 1 small-medium yellow onion, diced

3-4 cloves garlic, chopped

2-3 tsp. minced ginger

1.5 tsp. salt

2 tsp. oyster sauce (or 1 tsp of fish paste/shrimp paste. For a vegetarian alternative, try soy sauce.)

fresh Thai basil, trimmed into strips (optional)


Using a mortar and pestle, pound the onions, garlic, and ginger together until softened. If you do not have a mortar and pestle, pulse them together in a food processor. (Simply dicing and sautéing them does not produce the same flavor for the recipe, so don’t skip this step!)

Heat oil. When it looks hot, add the turmeric. If it sizzles on contact, it’s ready. Add the onion mixture and chili powder. Cook on med-high heat until fragrant, about two minutes.

Add the pumpkin to the mixture, stir to combine everything, and turn the heat to medium low. Add the bouillon to the top of the mix and pour about a cup of water over it, until the pumpkin pieces are nearly, but not entirely covered. (or alternatively, skip the bouillon and add an equivalent amount of chicken/vegetable broth to the pan)

Add the oyster sauce and continue to simmer. Cook until the pumpkin is soft, but not mushy. Add the Thai basil right at the end of the cooking period so that it’s just softened into the curry, but not overcooked.

This dish can be served hot with rice, or can be cooked ahead and served a bit later at room temperature. Keeps in the fridge for about two days. 

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