Lalay Lodge has been a bit quiet with blogs lately as the troubles starting from 1 February caused our focus to move away from baking bread. So let’s rewind……..
In December 2020, pre-coup d’état and full in Covid regulations, I was allowed to travel back to Rakhine state on the condition of staying 2 weeks in quarantine within the Lalay Lodge compound. Nurses came to check my temperature, a notice was put up at the gate that this was “quarantine area”. The team and I were free to roam around the lodge compound yet only allowed to stare at the sea, not entering it. All reasonable and acceptable measures as also from our side the last thing we wanted to do is cause possible harm or fear to the community. After some days of cleaning off the dust gathered during the 9 months Covid closure a new idea was born: let’s build a bread oven!
All meals at Lalay Lodge are prepared by our kitchen team from the community and we take pride to buy almost all ingredients locally and experiment with local flavours to create fresh and healthy home cooked food. Yet, I do fully understand not everybody appreciates a Rakhine fish soup for breakfast; also for me it took a while before appreciating that. Hence the plan to learn how to bake fresh bread.
Ingredients for an oven:
Bricks (made locally in the village), cement, a recycled concrete slab left over from the construction period, an exhaust pipe bought at Thandwe market, a bit of clay from the river bed and a frame made from an old barrel. I did some research on youtube “how to build an oven”, combined some of the ideas and we simply started.
Making the brick arch wasn’t easy and it looks as if it caved in at some point. I did get some verbal support from the Netherlands, suggesting me to cover the arch with clay to make it stronger and wait a few days before starting the first fire. We collected waste coconut shells which is probably the one thing available in abundance in the village and started a fire. The exhaust was working well, the front door needed some adjustments but overall we were happy with the result.
Ingredients for bread:
The next step; start figuring out how to bake bread. We tried making our own yeast but from the smell of it after a few days we decided making yeast was a step too far for us at this point. With the help of self-rising flour, water, salt, patience and practical on the spot assistance from Ueli from the Arakan Nature Lodge we managed to bake a decent bread for breakfast in the morning. Turns out the big challenge is knowing when the oven is hot enough to push the smouldering fire to the sides before placing the bread in the oven. Knowing how long to wait before having your first peek is another stage you have to get experienced in.
Next step is practicing how to make cakes. Recipes including baking instructions are very welcome, preferably all with local ingredients from Maung Shwe Lay – Thandwe – Rakhine state – Yangon – the rest of the world. In that order of importance as we want to continue to bake sustainably and use local products.
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