Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Mohinga – Burmese Fish & Noodle Soup.

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...

Mohinga Ingredients:

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.

To Serve:

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.



_ts of [eatingclub] vancouver said...

Oh wow. I have never even heard of this noodle soup before. Very intriguing; I don't know anything about Burmese food.

Clipped this!

(And how come you and your friends are so good at food styling!? Jealous. Hehe.)

Kyle @ Yumoh said...

Thanks TS - I'd not heard of Mohinga either, before googling 'breakfast' - isn't the internet a marvellous thing?? But my Bermese friend Enid's eyes lit up when I told her we were cooking Mohinga, it is such a classic dish from her culture.

As for me and my friends food styling? About 20 years ago (virtually a past life!) I went to Art School and did a degree in Fine Art photography... then somehow I took a fork in the road that led to me becoming a Chinese medicine practitioner. Over the years of studying medicine and setting up in practice, I kind of let my art practice go... but I still have many art-friends from that era and recently I rediscovered my love of photography, which has led to this blog... and what more fun way to spend a weekend than cooking and creating with friends?!

thanks for your feedback!

Sunny said...


Your recipe for mohinga looks good but may need a little tweaking to be a bit more authentic.
1. There's no split-pea in the mohinga soup... the split-pea is use for the burmese coconut soup (with chicken). However, you can soak the split-peas overnight and mix with tempura powder for the fried split-pea fritters that we eat with the soup...you get this crunchyness in the soup
2. the best fish for the mohinga soup base is either mackeral or if you want a quick soup..can of tuna[get the one that soak in water and not oil]
3. the typical garnishes for mohinga soup is chopped coriander leaves, boiled eggs, crushed chilli and lime. We do not put bamboo shoots nor spring onions. If you like...you can deep fry fish egg in sacs[with alittle tumeric powder and salt] and add that to your soup as one of the garnishes(it's to die for). Additionally you can also use long bean, sliced thin, for garnish as well. Oh and no green peppers...for spice we use crushed chilli.

Bon aptite!

byakga said...

Good try!! Congratulation!!

Boiled and mashed split-bean is used in most part of Burma, including Rangoon, the capital city.

The usual topping are chopped Coriander leaves, Mints leaves, and chopped green long beans. Fried gourd, fried split-bean chips, fried minced fish balls are also used.

The best fish for Mohinga is cat-fish.

Hoarder's Den said...

My friends add sliced young banana palm shoots whenever they can get their hands on it! Those bits add an interesting look and texture.

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