“Burma? Mohinga? Hmmmm what is it? Yes! I’d love to taste ”
The beautiful bright eyes of an adorable 12-year epicurean named Liore pushed me to cook this dish last Thursday. We could never have completed our culinary trip to Myanmar without this dish.
Indeed, a journey though Myanmar would be considered incomplete without savoring one of the country’s most popular and delicious dishes: mohinga.
Mohinga is a fish-based soup prepared with rice noodles that is considered by most people as the national dish. This is the must-have for breakfast in Burma. Indeed, eating noodles for breakfast in the Land of the Golden Pagoda is similar to eating fried eggs and bacon every morning in England or the United States, simmering a pho soup in Vietnam or a kuy-teav in Cambodia.
Mohinga is native to southern Burma where fresh fish is more readily available .
This dish has many variations. Each region, city, village and even restaurant prepares its mohinga differently. The main reason is primarily the availability of certain ingredients depending on the region, or local preference. There are so many differences that most cooks have a distinctive feature that indicates their name and origin, and informing people of the kind of mohinga that they serve. However, the basis for the traditional recipe remains the same.
In its most traditional form, mohinga is prepared with chickpea and/or rice flour, garlic, onion, lemongrass and ginger and of course fish cooked in the broth.
Four species of fish are typically used to prepare this Burmese soup: ngaiji (small freshwater catfish – Heteropneustes fossilis), ngakhu (another small freshwater catfish – clarias batrachus), ngapali (snakehead fish – ophiocephalus punctatus) or tilapia (O. aureus).
How lucky! I can find tilapia in Paris! Tilapia is a kind of carp and a freshwater fish. It is the same fish that Mike had used to prepare his thieboudienne from Senegal.
The biggest mohinga providers are street hawkers. They go around through the neighborhoods of every city where they have regular customers. They carry a large wooden pole on their shoulders. On this pole, they hang a cauldron at each end, one with the broth and the other one with the noodles. They also carry all the ingredients that accompany mohinga, as well as bowls and spoons.
The broth is always kept at a very hot temperature as this dish is much tastier when it is consumed hot. Mohinga is usually accompanied by a colorful variety of other foods such as squash fritters, fried onions, fish cakes or hard-boiled eggs. Some accompany their mohinga with dry or fresh chili. And cilantro is an essential condiment.
The rice noodles used in this mohinga recipe are also called rice vermicelli or rice noodles. Their main ingredients are rice flour and water. In some rice noodles, you can find other ingredients such as tapioca and cornstarch that are used to increase the transparency and soft texture of the noodles.
You can find rice noodles in Asian supermarkets, where they will be available in different shapes and thicknesses.
Burmese cuisine is strongly influenced by its neighboring countries, including China, India, and Thailand. This is the reason why mohinga aromas are reminiscent of the cuisine of these three countries.
Liore is the daughter of my very good friends Shira and Ilan. I initially decided to prepare this soup so she could discover Burmese cuisine. In the end, family and friends gathered around the table to enjoy this delicious soup with great enthusiasm! Special shout out to Solomon, Liore’s brother, who absolutely loved the soup!
Recipe of Mohinga
Ingredients (serves 6)
For the broth
- 2 white onions, chopped
- 1 lb tilapia fillet or catfish
- 1 oz fresh ginger, chopped
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- 8 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 3 teaspoons turmeric
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 8 tablespoons rice flour or chickpea flour
- 3 stalks lemongrass
- 2 teaspoons powdered dashi
- 8 tablespoons nuoc mam (fish sauce)
- 1 lb rice noodles
- 1 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped
- 3 hard boiled eggs, halved
- 2 limes, quartered
- Crushed red pepper
Cut about 2 inches from the base of each lemongrass stalks and thinly slice those pieces.
Vigorously pound the remaining piece of each lemongrass stalk and cut each stalk into 3 inch sections.
The thinly sliced lemongrass rings will be fried and the long sections will be used for the broth.
Prepare the broth by bringing 10 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan with the dashi powder and 2 tablespoons of fish sauce.
Add the pounded lemongrass sections, and the fish fillets. Simmer for about 10 minutes until the fish is cooked through.
In a skillet, heat the oil over medium/high heat. When the oil is hot enough, add the chopped onion, garlic and thinly sliced lemongrass. Sauté for 3-4 minutes.
Reduce heat to medium. Add turmeric, paprika, 1 tablespoon of fish sauce and a pinch of salt. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, remove the filets from the pot. Using two forks, coarsely chop the fish as thinly as possible.
Add the fish to the mixture in the pan. Increase heat to medium/high, and cook the fish with the sauce for about 10 minutes, stirring vigorously and fairly regularly.
Place fish mixture into the broth and bring to a boil again.
Add the other 4 tablespoons of fish sauce. Add the rice flour and stir. Bring to a boil and let the broth simmer for about 15 minutes or until the broth has considerably thickened.
In each individual bowl, add noodles and cover with broth. Put half a boiled egg on top, and sprinkle cilantro and crushed pepper. Serve with a wedge of lime.