Fancy a Mohinga in the Morning?
Mohinga (pronounced exactly as it’s spelt), is the national dish of Burma. It’s really a breakfast dish, but people eat it all day long.
The easiest way to describe it is like a fish chowder. Think of it as Cullen Skink with a twist. Everyone’s mother’s mohinga is the best, and everyone’s mother has her own special recipe. And all over Burma, everybody young, old, rich and poor gather for their morning Mohinga, perched on teeny tiny plastic children's chairs and tables.
There are quite a few ingredients, but don’t be put off… it actually isn’t that difficult, and it’s delicious. It’s also an excuse to explore an Asian supermarket.
This recipe comes from Cho’s brilliant blog. If you like the flavours, get yourself a copy of Mandalay, a brand new book of Burmese recipes. And if you’re instantly hungry, head down to Lahpet in London’s Shoreditch. Finally, keep your eyes peeled for the Rangoon Sisters, who host amazing supper clubs and have their own book brewing…
Let’s get fishy….
cooking time: 50-70 mins
for the fish
300g catfish (or use a whole trout)
1 lemon grass stalk, bruised
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
for the onion paste
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic
1cm fresh ginger
2 lemon grass stalks, white part only
3 whole dried chillies, soaked in hot water
1 teaspoon shrimp paste
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
6 tablespoons peanut oil
for the mohinga soup
1.5 litres water
100g young banana stem, sliced (from an Asian supermarket)
(alternatively use 12 small shallots, peeled)
75g ground rice powder, roasted
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
500g fine rice noodles or
wheat noodles, cooked
3 limes, halved
5 hard-boiled eggs, peeled & quartered
2 handfuls of fresh coriander, chopped
split pea fritters
200g ready made fishcakes (from an Asian supermarket), sliced
extra fish sauce & chilli flakes
Put the fish in a large pan, add the water, lemon grass and turmeric. Bring to the boil and simmer for 6-10 minutes until the fish is just cooked. Remove the fish from the pan and when cool enough to handle, peel the skin and flake the flesh, discarding any bones. Drain the fish stock through a sieve and reserve for the soup.
Pound the onion, garlic, ginger, dried chillies and lemon grass into a paste in a pestle and mortar, otherwise just chop everything as finely as you can.
Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the onion paste. Cook over moderate heat for 15-20 minutes until the paste is soft and caramelised. Add the shrimp paste, mash with a wooden spoon until incorporated, then mix in the turmeric and paprika. Cook for a further minute until the spices are fragrant before adding the flaked fish. Pop the lid on and cook for 10-15 minutes, allowing all the flavours from the onion paste to infuse into the fish.
The soup paste is done. If you are making this in advance, cool the mixture completely and pop in the freezer. It will keep for up to 1 month.
To make the soup: put the soup paste (completely defrosted if using from frozen), rice powder, water and the reserved fish stock (or 500ml of water if not using fish stock) in a large pan. Bring to a boil while stirring continuously to make sure the rice powder doesn’t clump. Add the shallots or banana stem and simmer for 20-30 minutes until they are tender.
Add the fish sauce and taste for seasoning. Finally add lots of black pepper before serving.
To serve, put a handful of noodles in a bowl and ladle over the soup. Let everyone add the toppings as they wish. It should taste spicy, salty and tangy from the limes.
NB to be eaten with a spoon, not chopsticks. Nothing hacks off a Mohinga purist more. Chopsticks aren’t Burmese at all. And spoons are better for slurping, anyway….