It is only right the next recipe post should be for mohinga, the ‘unofficial national dish of Burma’. Watch here how to cook it – filmed at the historical and beautiful Belmond Governor’s Residence Hotel in Yangon (Rangoon). This dish is another noodle soup dish, like ohno-kaukswe, but there ends the similarities. The soup is fish based (similar to that of the Penang Laksa (but not in flavour). The noodles are thin rice noodles. Hence, it is light and eaten commonly at breakfast. For this very reason, it is also easily consumable and snackable at any time of the day. The flavour profile is predominantly fish and lemongrass.
There are so many recipes for this famous Burmese dish. Every family, every cook, will have their own cooking process and deviation, from thickness in broth to the type of fish used. When pressed for time, I have used a mix of tinned mackerel and sardines (mum’s quick recipe). And this works absolutely deliciously as a substitute.
Cooked in every family home. Found on every street corner. Mostly you will find it at its best and most widely available in the morning. It’s also found in most tea shops in Yangon, where folks gather at any time of the day for tea, snacks and a chat. Although, it is less commonly available later in the day.
The demonstration is filmed in the gardens of Belmond Governor’s Residence Hotel, Yangon (Rangoon). It is one of the oldest standing hotels. Beautifully restored. Here’s the clip showing you how Executive Chef Karl Reyes made it. How to cook mohinga.
He did not provide precise measurements so here’s my recipe below. Most importantly, make it your own! Adjust the spices and consistency of the soup to your liking. And make plenty as even though it is simple, it is a bit time consuming, unless you replace the fresh fish with tinned fish.
In our house growing up, being a family of 8, the pot was so huge and the noodles vast that these would be left in the kitchen. Everyone helps themselves to the amount of noodles they want, ladling over as much soup as they want straight from the simmering pot. We then took it to the dining table and helped ourselves to the garnishes laid out.
Not only enough was cooked to feed everyone at the one sitting but enough for returns later in the day or the next day for the lucky ones quick enough to return! (All stews and soups are always better reheated)
This is the family recipe below but the process shown in the film clip is nearly the same. It’s best to separate the process into three stages. The first two can be done a day ahead. Let me know how you get on!
SERVES 8 (ish)
- 900 gms fish (catfish, basa or similar) – whole (see notes below)
- 3 tablespoon cooking oil
- 3 inch piece garlic
- 8 fat cloves ginger
- 2 onions
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 2 teaspoon paprika
- 3 lemongrass stalks (bruised & knotted)
- 1 tablespoon toasted chickpea flour (see notes below)
- 1 tablespoon toasted rice flour
- 1 tablespoon toasted semolina flour
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 teaspoon salt
- 2 hard boiled eggs, sliced
- handful banana stem, sliced thinly (see notes)
- 10 baby onions, peeled and kept whole
- 2 teaspoons crushed black pepper
- Noodles to serve 8
- See below ingredients for garnishing the dish
1. To make fish stock;
- If whole, clean the fish. Or ask your fishmonger. In a large stock pot place the fish, 1 inch ginger, sliced and bruised, 4 fat cloves garlic, 2 lemongrass stalks bruised and tied into a knot, 1 whole onion cut into quarters, 2 tablespoon fish sauce, 1 teaspoon salt , 1/2 teaspoon turmeric and cover with 2.5 litre of water. Bring everything to a boil and simmer for 15 mins or until the fish is just cooked. Whichever is the sooner.
- Carefully lift out the fish and then separate the flesh from the bones. Flake the flesh into small pieces and keep.
- Place the bones back into the stockpot. Bring back to boil and continue to simmer for 30 minutes. (At this point, you can add more fish bones or heads to the stock if you want to enrich the stock further).
- After 30 minutes, strain the stock very carefully, removing all bones and other bits and pieces.
- Mix the three flours in a jug or pan with cold water using a whisk, until you have a lump free paste, about the consistency of thick batter. Be careful to add the water gradually so as not to have lumps.
- Pour this in to the fish stock, stirring gently. Return to a gentle boil and simmer for another 15 minutes or so. The stock will thicken.
2. To make fish paste for the base of the soup;
- Pound in a pestle and mortar (or use a food processor) 1 onion, remaining garlic, peeled ginger, white part of the lemongrass.
- On a medium to high heat, fry this paste in 3 tablespoon oil and 1 teaspoon salt until translucent, about 10 minutes or so. When the edges start to caramelise and it smells fragrant, it’s ready.
- Then add 1/2 teaspoon turmeric , 2 teaspoons paprika and fry for a minute or two until fragrant. Stirring continuously not to burn the spices.
- Now add the flaked fish and one desert spoon fish sauce and fry for further 2-3 minutes until everything is amalgamated. Do not let it stick but work quickly and delicately not to mush the fish too much. Keep to one side.
3. Bringing everything together – finishing the dish;
- To the simmering stock pot, add the fish paste, banana stems, baby onions and simmer gently for at least 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, add black pepper and sliced eggs. Taste and adjust seasoning with more salt and fish sauce as required and simmer for another 10 minutes.
- Adjust soup consistency with more water to thin down or if you prefer it thicker dissolve more rice flour in a cup of the soup liquor and add back into the pot. cook for 10 mins. Repeat until the desired consistency is achieved.
- thin rice noodles (blanched in hot water until soft)
- chopped coriander
- lime wedges
- more thinly sliced egg
- thinly sliced fresh onions
- shallot or garlic oil
- roasted chilli flakes & fresh sliced chillies (optional)
- fried thin crispy fritters such as gourd (boothee) or yellow bean fritters
(I will give you recipes for making the crispiest fritters in a separate recipe – watch this space!)
- Place all the serving bits and pieces in separate bowls on the table.
- Place some noodles in each individual bowl.
- Ladle enough soup to cover the noodles.
- Garnish your own bowl with as many of the toppings as you like. Preferably all.
- Mackerel can replace catfish
- Toast each of the flours individually, in a dry frying pan until a golden nutty colour. Stir continuously so as not to burn the flours. It should take about 8-10 minutes.
- Substitute banana stem with tinned banana blossom which can be found in Chinese groceries.
ENJOY! ALL FEEDBACK WELCOME……
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One thought on “Burmese Cookery – How to cook Mohinga”
Great recipe. Only one ingredient missing – the heart of banana tree stems.
If not available substitute with any other bland vegetable that remains crunchy when cooked, yacon, yam bean, some edible yam leaf stems ( Vietnamese).
Thanks for the peh gyaw recipe.