Just before our last Soup Event (@ St George’s Hangleton) we caught up with one of our talented chefs, Martin Pritchard, who once again provided deliciou soup from from his Chu Chu Burmese Kitchen.
Martin & Tara Pritchard first joined us as volunteers in early 2017. They came to help set up at our May event, and we were all blown away by their boundless energy! Since then, they’ve volunteered at other events, and Martin has become one of our favourite soup chefs. Today, we’ve met him at ‘The Food Rocks’ market in Horsham, where he has a pitch every Thursday and Saturday selling delicious Burmese food.
Martin, how did you and Tara meet?
I was on my travels in Hawaii, queuing at a youth hostel. Tara was in the queue too! We got talking, and then met again on a flight to the Cook Islands. It went from there! We travelled together in New Zealand, and then lived together in Sydney, Australia for 9 months. When we returned to the UK, we moved in together and eventually married in 2009. We lived for a while in Chessington (near the theme park) but both loved the sea and came to Brighton whenever we could. We eventually moved here, but with our jobs don’t get to the beach as often as we’d like!
How did you get interested in cooking?
I grew up in Cheltenham, where I learnt to be a meat-and-veg man with a particular passion for peas soaked in vinegar! Later on, I studied Tourism and Management at Brighton Uni, living mainly on burgers and potatoes in all their guises. Tara, on the other hand, had grown up all over the world, eating spicy food in countries like Malaysia when she was just a kid. I guess I had a sort of ultimatum: “If you want this relationship to move forward, you need to expand your eating habits!”
So what happened?
We had an Italian housemate called Gino when we lived in Sydney, and he showed me some simple Italian dishes that inspired me. I found a love of cooking and have been making up for lost time ever since. Having been employed as a Payroll Manager for 17 years, I realised it was not what I had set out to do and it was driving me crazy. I hated being office bound and needed to do something different so I set up my own food business. Tara’s father is Anglo Burmese, and we decided that as Burmese food isn’t really known in the UK we would like to try and change that. Tara still has a job that takes her all over the world, but we’d both like to be able to dedicate ourselves to this line of work.
The food is delicious! I just had a Dhal, which is quite like Indian or Nepali but also a bit different! And tea leaf salad?
Burmese Cuisine could be characterised by its use of fish (fish sauce and ngapi, which is shrimp paste) and drip shrimp, but it also takes influences from the countries it borders: Bangladesh, India, China, Thailand and Laos.
Many of the dishes we serve are traditional family recipes, the Oh No Khao Swe (Chicken, Coconut & Egg Curry) is one of Tara’s Grandad’s recipes and one of the favourite things to eat in her family. “Chu Chu”, the name of the business, comes from the family name for the crispy egg noodles that are liberally sprinkled on the Oh No Khao Swe.
Laphet, or Tea Leaf Salad, is a ubiquitous Burmese dish. It is said that the Burmese are the only nationality to eat tea as well as drink it. The young tea leaves are picked and buried in sacks underground to ferment for anything between 6 months and 2 years. The tea leaves are then served over a salad of shredded veg (cabbage and lettuce), and served with numerous toppings such as crispy onion, crispy garlic, shrimp powder, mixed nuts and beans for the crunch that the Burmese love so much, along with the dressing of fish sauce, garlic oil and lime juice.
How did you get involved with Brighton Soup?
To be honest, Tara signed up for it initially. She was interested in what Brighton Soup do, and wanted to help out and try to make a difference to the community we live in, and I tagged along. I like what it stands for. There is a really nice environment at the events, and its great to be able to contribute to charities by doing what I do!
Martin can be found every Thursday and Saturday at the Food Rocks Market, Carfax, Horsham. If you love food, and particularly spicy food, then try this place out! Its just a bit different!