I was Googling 'breakfast' the other day, to do a little compare-and-contrast of what the rest of the world is tucking into as the sun rises. And the strange proclivity that many modern westerners have for either cold cereal or a greasy fry-up is, it seems, mostly a marketing invention of one Harvey Kellogg, who at the turn of the last century wanted to find a way to sell corn and sugar in a more appealing way; and a hang-over from the English farmers' breakfast where a solid meat meal would keep a man hard to the plough all morning.
My own personal taste in breakfasts leans much more towards the East in general, and Asian soups, congees and dumplings in particular. It is nice to know I am not alone in this desire - 80% of the worlds population dream of this kind of thing for breakfast. So you can imagine my delight when I discovered Mohinga - Myanmar's classic breakfast meal - which could be considered the national dish of Burma. Frequently served up by mobile street-hawkers as the early rays of sun break into the day, the soup-base is cooked the previous night and is served piping hot, poured over noodles and topped with garnishing ingredients that are all carried in two baskets hanging from a bamboo pole balanced across the Mohingar’s shoulders.
Since this food photography project first began, I have been rounding up my friends to act as Food Stylists - and when I mentioned this Mohinga concept to Audrey and Howard, they were keen on collaboration. As it happens, this was one of our first shoots, but it's taken me until now to get around to posting it. As you can see, I didn't know much about my new camera then, so the depth of field is a bit 'atmospheric', but I think you can get the idea - the finished dish was delish!
A little note of editorial authenticity:
I ran into Enid, a Burmese woman I met through my friend Beck and told her we had been cooking Mohinga. She agreed the recipe was authentic (no coconut milk, please, we're Burmese!) but she corrected our use of bean-sprouts that you will see in the photo, because these aren't traditionally used in garnishing Mohinga. I guess we had been borrowing that Idea from Laksa...
1 cup yellow-split-peas
2 cups water - boil 12 minutes
500 grams dewfish (or other white fish)
cut into bite-size pieces & tossed with:
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
½ cup long grained rice, dry fried for 5 min in a heavy based pan, stirring continuously until a golden colour and nutty aroma arise. Grind to a powder in a mortar and pestle.
¼ cup peanut oil or rice-bran oil
1 stalk of lemongrass, with the bulb
2 large onions, grated
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2-inch piece of ginger, peeled & grated
1 small lotus root, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup fish sauce (nam pla / ngoc mam)
4 cups water
1 packet of dried rice noodles
Boiling salted water to cook noodles - 5 min
3 hard boiled eggs, quartered
a bunch of coriander leaves
1 cup sliced bamboo shoots
3 shallots/spring onions, sliced finely diagonally
2 limes, quartered
1 teaspoon cayenne powder
Cha Ca - Fried Fish:
1 fillet of Ling, cut into bite sized pieces.
1 teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon salt
oil for shallow-frying
Heat the oil in a large pot and add the onions and fry over low heat until they turn golden, about 5 minutes. Pound the lemongrass stalk lightly to release flavours. Add the marinated fish, garlic, lemongrass, ginger, lotus root, paprika, black pepper and fish sauce to the onions and cook, uncovered, over medium heat for five minutes.
Add the boiled split-peas, the extra water and rice powder and stir well. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer for 12 minutes.
Prepare the garnishes, setting them out on platters for diners to choose from. Boil the rice noodles for 5 minutes and drain. In a separate frying pan, fry the Cha-Ca turmeric-fish pieces until crisp and golden outside and tender and juicy inside.
Place the fish soup stock in a serving pot in the centre of the table, along with the platters of garnishes, Cha-Ca fried fish and the cooked rice noodles. Diners should fill their soup bowls first with noodles, then with the fish curry and whatever garnishes they wish to add before tucking in.
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