Red meat was out, but prawns and chicken were all right. Salt was frowned upon and monosodium glutamate was a strict no-no. The resident of 54 University Avenue was also very concerned about putting on weight.
A newly published book, written by the former cook for the Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, has revealed some of the tastes and concerns of the Burmese democracy leader. Entitled Daughter Aung San and My Memoirs, the book by Myint Soe details many anecdotes and memories from the 15 years he spent as her only chef.
Mr Soe, who uses the pen name Moe Linn, stumbled onto the job by chance. A member of Ms Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, he was detained in 1989 and sent to Rangoon’s Insein Jail. Upon his release he survived by doing gardening work in the home that was bequeathed to Ms Suu Kyi by her mother.
In 1995, Mr Soe took over kitchen duties from Ms Suu Kyi’s long-time family cook. For the next eight years he worked in the kitchen in her home.
“She doesn’t eat red meat. She shuns MSG and oily food. She wants less salt in her food. Fish, prawns and vegetables are her meals of choice. Plus, chicken and duck,” Mr Soe told The Irrawaddy website. “She is very health-conscious. She told me to use sugar as a substitute for MSG. She doesn’t want to be fat, either.”
Mr Soe said that when he arrived at Ms Suu Kyi’s house in the morning, he would take with him traditional Burmese breakfast food for her. One popular breakfast dish in the country is a soup, called mohinga, made from noodles and fish stock. He would then prepare rice, soup, salad and a meat dish. She ate her lunch at noon and had dinner at 7pm.
In 2003, the National League for Democracy party leader was again confined to house arrest with two female companions.
Mr Soe was told he could no longer cook in her kitchen but instead was obliged to prepare the meals elsewhere and then deliver them to her police guards, who would inspect and photograph what he took.
His dedication was impressive. “During those years, I missed my duty only one day – when Cyclone Nargis hit Rangoon on 3 May in 2008,” he said.
Mr Soe said he had no formal training as a cook but had picked up tips from his mother when he was young. His reputation as someone who could prepare a tasty meal spread among party workers.
“When she said she wanted a new chef, my friends simply nominated me, and I became her cook. She never made a comment on the food I prepared for her, nor told me what she wanted to eat,” he said.
Since Ms Suu Kyi was released from house arrest in November 2010, the cooking duties have been shared. However, Mr Soe still keeps his hand in. He said: “I still cook once or twice a month for her.”