Citizens – allow me to introduce you to a rarely-encountered cuisine – that of Burma (aka Myanmar)! 🙂
There are very few Burmese restaurants outside of Burma for the simple reason that when the government of the country fell due to a military coup in 1962, the borders were sealed. As a result, only Burmese who were traveling or the few who had emigrated were able to form the small communities that exist today outside of the country.
Due to this, Burmese restaurants are very few and far between as you can imagine. Recent positive events have allowed tourists to once again visit this amazing country – I personally hope to visit soon with my Burmese friend Kenneth and see the Shwedagon Pagoda (a lifelong dream of mine!).
We are very fortunate here in the San Francisco Bay Area to have a number of excellent Burmese restaurants due to the ex-pat community that settled here. It was at one of these restaurants that I was first able to sample Mohinga, the national dish of Burma/Myanmar!
Mohinga is a rice noodle and fish soup that is readily available in most parts of the country. In major cities, street hawkers and roadside stalls sell dozens of dishes of mohinga to the locals and passers-by. Although Mohinga is available throughout the day, it is usually eaten as breakfast.
The main ingredients of Mohinga are Mekong River catfish in a rich broth cooked and kept on the boil in a cauldron plus chickpea flour and/or crushed toasted rice, garlic, onions, lemongrass, banana tree stem, ginger, fish paste and fish sauce.
It is served with rice vermicelli, dressed and garnished with fish sauce, a squeeze of lime, crisp-fried onions, coriander, spring onions, crushed dried chili. Optional extras can include crispy fried fritters such as split chickpeas (pè gyaw) (ပဲကြော်), urad dal (baya gyaw) (ဘယာကြော်) or gourd (bu thee gyaw) (ဗူးသီးကြော်) or sliced pieces of Chinese donuts (အီကြာကွေး), as well as boiled egg and fried nga hpè fish cake (Burmese: ငါးဖယ်ကြော်).
While Burmese eat Mohinga for breakfast, most Westerners prefer it as a dinner entree – and my version includes duck eggs (which I am very fond of, you can of course substitute chicken eggs) and my preferred spices. My recipe results in a thicker sauce as opposed to a soup, but that is just the way I prefer it. Think it out with some fish or chicken stock if you want a more traditional Mohinga.
This is not a “true” Burmese Mohinga as it lacks a few ingredients and condiments, but it is as close as we can get here in the States. It is, however, true in spirit and delicious.
By the way, if you are visiting this page on an iPhone or iPad and seeing a lot of “blank boxes” where there should be Burmese – sadly iOS 9 doesn’t come with an installed Burmese (Myanmar) font. There is, thankfully, a very easy solution that will enable you to read Myanmar text in native apps such as Safari, Facebook, etc.. You just need to install the ZawGyi font and it couldn’t be easier. 🙂
To install the ZawGyi Font for iOS, visit the following link using the mobile Safari browser on your iPhone or iPad: http://shwe.co/zawgyi
Click Install when prompted – don’t worry about it saying this is an unverified profile, it’s safe.
Click Install to install the font and voila – perfectly rendered Burmese fonts! 🙂
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