February 28, 2011

Authentic Burmese fish soup (Mohinga)

Mohinga - Fish Noodle Soup
Mohinga is the national breakfast noodle soup in Burma.  Every region has their own local ingredients to stay true to the region and so Mohinga will be slightly different in every region.  The two most famous Mohinga are inspired and named after the region it comes from:  Yangon and Mandalay Mohinga.  The biggest difference is that the Mandalay Mohinga tends to have more black peppers, whereas most Burmese prepare or seem to prefer the Yangon Mohinga.   The one Mohinga that I love the most was first prepared from this little old lady, who served me this Mohinga every day.   Her unique ingredient that made her version so good was that it had oodles of fried garlic, and I fell in love with it!

Mornings are very important to all Burmese, and as I have mentioned in an earlier posting, that the lack of stable electricity, reliable transportation and humidity brings a necessary daily market march.  Today’s catch of fish and day’s worth of vegetable would be sold and bought by vendors and most everyone.  So as a result, the marketplace is where people went every morning to hear the latest news and gossip as well as gather the ingredients for their daily meals.  Although today’s Burma has more reliable electricity and modern conveniences such as refrigerators, people still like to shop at the market every day, less out of the necessity to shop every day and more as a cultural or daily social event.

Breakfast is a very important meal of the day and the number of breakfasts easily outnumbers the combined totals for lunch and dinner.  Every morning, everybody in the household would not only eat breakfast at their favorite street vendors and but also were there to socialize with their friends and neighbors.  There would be chit chat and gossip about the latest fashion, whom was going to marry whom, which households had visitors, the latest politics and world news.

In my household, on a typical morning my Mom and us children would go to the market and eat breakfast at the store.  Or we would buy breakfast from our favorite vendors and take the food home and get ready for school.  My mom would stay at the market for her daily vegetables and other ingredients that she would prepare later for our family.  My favorite part of Mohinga is to finish eating the soup with Split chickpeas that have been fried.  If you have noticed that I called for 10 Split chickpeas fried for serving for 6, I did this just in case there are a few people like me, who wanted to finish off their Mohinga soup with Split chickpeas fried.

Since I have explained a little of the history of the breakfast habit in Burma, let me explain to you about another tradition the Mohinga soup making.  Although I have shorten the length of cooking time, be sure to allow the Mohinga good three hours time on fire to let it simmer and so that all the ingredients will fuse together and the marriage of all the ingredients will  make for a great tasting soup.  Mohinga is one of those dishes that should be cooked one day ahead and eaten the next day because it tastes so much better the second day.

Fish soup recipe (Mohinga)
Serve 6 hungry people

For soup base:
1 large onions, chopped
1 whole garlic, chopped
2”ginger root, finely chopped
2 tbsp paprika powder

2 lb small rice Vermicelli
1/4 tsp turmeric
3 lb catfish fillet or nugget, finely chopped
1 tbsp ground black pepper
2 tbsp fish sauce
5 tbsp vegetable oil
4 quart water
3 sticks of lemon grass cut in half
1 can of banana stem, sliced (optional)
1/2 lb fish cake, diced
5 onions, quartered
1/2 cup rice powder, chickpeas powder or Semolina Flour dissolved in 1 cup water
2 tsp salt

6 boiled eggs, halved
6 branches cilantro, coarsely chopped for garnish
Some roasted chili flake for garnish
10 Split chickpeas fried for garnish
Some fried garlic flake and oil

1.  Add garlic, onion, ginger, and paprika in a small food processor and chop until pasty (peanut butte consistency).

2.  Heat oil in large stock pot and saut√© chili paste with turmeric till fragrant for 5 minutes.

3.  Stir in catfish, then add black pepper, fish sauce, and continue to stir for 10 minutes.

4.  Add water, banana stem, and lemon grass brings to boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for three hours.

5.  Add more water if the stock needs more.  Add quartered onions, fish cake and rice/chickpeas/semolina flour and bring liquid to a boil, at the same time stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot to prevent lumping and sticking the bottom of the stock pot.  Taste the stock and add additional salt to your own preference.

Cook rice Vermicelli with water according to package directions.  Do not overcook the Vermicelli as it will impact the taste of the finished soup.  Once cooked, drain and divide into 6 to 8 bowls, add fish stock, garnish with chopped cilantro, pieces of chickpeas fried, boiled egg, fried garlic, oil and chili flake for some heat.

Cook rice Vermicelli with water according to package directions.  Do not overcook the Vermicelli as it will impact the taste of the finished soup.  Once cooked, drain and divide into 6 to 8 bowls, add fish stock, garnish with chopped cilantro, pieces of chickpeas fried, boiled egg, fried garlic, oil and chili flake for some heat.

Cook’s Notes:
·       If you are planning to cook the stock ahead of time, follow steps 1-4 and finish step 5 the next day before you serve.  Trust me Mohinga is better the second day, than when freshly cooked.
·       If you have more time, allowing the soup to simmer up to 5 hours, will give you the best result.


  1. Yum o yum!! i had this last time!! it was really good!!!! my bf Nick loves this thing! i gotta learn how to make it! heeh..

    Also can I request a recipe?
    Can you teach me how to make spicy popcorn chicken?

  2. I'm salivating now and looking forward to my next trip back home to Burma.

    Using boiled and mashed yellow split peas (or boiled and mashed peanuts) instead of chickpea flour improves the taste, in my opinion.

    If you are not anti-monosodium glutamate, addition of that also improves flavor.

    Several mohinga stores in Burma add a bit of coconut milk to the broth, but people tend to either love this or hate it.

  3. @ZettaiBaka
    Yeah, mashed yellow split peas taste better! Above recipe is short-cut without compromising the taste. Mashed peanuts and coconut milk on the other hand has different taste all together. It's great if you love those taste!

    Although MSG enhance any dishes I try to avoid it! Thank for the comment!


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