Burmese Semolina Cake


During my daily commute I often daydream about all kinds of stuff. One of my favorite daydreaming activities is trying to figure out what I would name my restaurant, if I were to open one. I have absolutely no intention to ever actually open a restaurant. It would take away all the joy of cooking and sharing food with others. But it’s fun to try and think of a name for this fantasy restaurant.


I don’t know how important a restaurant name is to its success. I’m sure that a really bad name (“Crappy’s” or “Slime and Sweat” or “Danger”) could sink a place. But is there really any difference if a place is called after the owner’s name or a combination of two food ingredients or some made up word that sounds appetizing? Probably not.

So for my restaurant, I’ve gone through many ideas. There are many Greek words related to food but a lot of them just don’t sound right in English or they are hard for Americans to pronounce right. The word for salt in the Cypriot dialect is “alas,” which in English is, according to the dictionary, “an expression of grief, pity, or concern.” The word for vinegar is “xydi” but it’s pronounced kseethee (with the th as in “they”).


It turns out, it’s really tough to find a good name for a restaurant. I’ve been going over this for a while now and I think I finally have a name. I would name my restaurant “Tatounna”. It has nothing to do with food, but it’s what I called my sister when we were little (I think it’s what she called herself first, because she couldn’t pronounce her actual name). My sister and I both love food, though she’s not as interested in cooking it as I am. But most of all, it’s a happy sounding name and it’s my sister, whom I love so very much.

I probably wouldn’t serve this Burmese semolina cake at Tatounna restaurant. But I’ve found myself with a bunch of draft blog posts for recipes that involve apricots and plums and cherries. And the season for them is over. So, instead of giving you a recipe that you can’t make for another 10 months, Burmese semolina cake it is. It’s actually a peculiar cake. It’s dense and intensely fragrant with toasted semolina, but only slightly sweet, with the texture of a very thick and gritty pudding. It makes for a great afternoon snack or it can be topped with ice cream or fruit salad for a more complete dessert.


Burmese Semolina Cake – Slightly adapted from Bon Appétit


2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly, divided, plus more
1¼ cups semolina flour
1 large egg
1 14-oz. can coconut milk
1½ cups half-and-half
⅓ cup sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt


Preheat oven to 425°. Butter an 8×8” baking dish. Toast semolina in a large dry skillet over medium-high heat, stirring, until darkened and nutty-smelling, about 2 minutes. Let cool.

Whisk egg, coconut milk, half-and-half, sugar, salt, and 1 Tbsp. butter in a large saucepan. Gradually whisk in semolina and bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking, until mixture is very thick and pulls away from the sides of saucepan, about 4 minutes. Scrape batter into baking dish.

Bake cake until golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 45–50 minutes. Transfer dish to a wire rack. Brush cake with remaining 1 Tbsp. butter; let cool slightly.

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