Good Morning, Burma

How about a steaming, fragrant bowl of fish soup?  Many Burmese enjoy mohinga for breakfast, and with good reason.  It’s bracing mixture of aromatics with mild peppers and garlic.  It definitely wakens the taste buds, with everything else following soon after.

Not that this is a particularly spicy soup.  In fact, the heat is subtle, adding mere traces of liveliness.  The real performers are the lemongrass and the ginger, delighting the nose before enchanting tongue.  The ingredients “pop,” creating a flavorful kaleidoscope.

The fish is a wonderful platform for all that’s going on in the soup.  In this case it’s catfish, which contributes a measure of richness to the broth, while its mild flesh drinks in the flavors and unifies them all.

Fortified with mohinga, Burma’s ready to take on the day.  Not only does it fill the stomach, but the taste stirs the palette and the aroma invigorates the nose.  Quite an accomplishment for a  bowl of fish soup.

This recipe came from, as have a few others featured on the blog.  Actually, a while ago I was searching for recipe ideas when it occurred to me that despite being so fond of Southeast Asia’s many cuisines, I never had tried Burma’s offerings.  For that matter, I would’ve been hard-pressed even to name a Burmese dish.  After investigating, mohinga intrigued me and, well, here we are.



  • 3 tablespoons cooking oil (*1)
  • 1 onion, grated (*2)
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 teaspoon minced lemongrass
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder (*3)
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 50 ounces water
  • 3 ounces fish sauce
  • 2 small onions, quartered (*4)
  • 4 tablespoons rice flour (*5)
  • 1 pound catfish
  • 1 pound rice noodles

Heat oil in a stockpot over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, chili powder and turmeric.  Cook until fragrant.

Add the water, fish sauce, small onions and rice flour.  Stir thoroughly to remove any lumps the rice flour creates.  Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Cut the fish into bite-sized pieces, add to the soup and cook for another ten minutes.

On the side, prepare the rice noodles and drain when finished. (*6)  Add to the soup, cook for a few more minutes and serve.


1 – When preparing Southeast Asian cuisine, I prefer peanut oil.

2 – Two large shallots are much better.

3 – Instead of chili powder, I finely minced a couple dried Thai bird chilies and added a few grinds of Szechuan pepper.  It was more authentic and vibrant this way.

4 – Not this time either, onions.  Use the white and light green parts of a couple leeks, sliced thinly.  It tastes better and is visually more appealing.

5 –  If you can’t find rice flour, cornstarch mixed with a bit of water will do nicely.  What you’re looking for is a thickener.

6 – Easier still, add the uncooked noodles directly to the soup and tack on a couple minutes to the overall cooking time.  Especially if you’re using thinner rice noodles, that’s all it should take.

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