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Typically synonymous with Burma (or Myanmar as the ruling junta calls it), the ubiquitous Mohinga is one of the most popular dishes in this Southeast Asian country. For most Burmese, eating Mohinga is a ritual. Breakfast is incomplete without a plate of Mohinga and a cup of tea.

It is in fact a part of Burmese Buddhist culture as Mohinga is the most common dish served at a variety of occasions from weddings, birthdays and novitiation ceremonies to funerals. While the wellto- do may opt for rice-and-chicken curry, biriyani or western - style fastfood, the majority with shallow pockets invariably find Mohinga the best option for it is inexpensive and well-received.

Fish is the main item but there are other ingredients to a nice mouthwatering bowl of Mohinga. At a glance, it is rice noodle in catfish chowder infused with lemongrass and galangal with various toppings such as boiled eggs, fried featherback fish cake (nga hpe) and vegetable fritters (akyaw).

The noodles are similar to the fermented rice noodles known in Thailand as khanom jeen. In Burma they call them – mont, and the broth fortified with ground fish, onions and the soft pith from the innermost stalks of the banana tree is known as – hinga. Hence the name Mohinga.

A general run-of-the-mill recipe will include rice noodles, freshwater catfish , fish or prawn sauce, lemon grass, sliced tender core of banana-stem, ginger, garlic, pepper, onion, turmeric powder, rice flour, dahl (Indian split-beans) powder, dried chilli powder, and cooking oil.

The method of cooking the broth, however, differs from one locality to another and each reputable shop has its own secret recipe and its own Mohinga fans. Some like it delta-style, that is, with a sprinkle of hot pepper and chilli powder .

Others prefer it mild and thin. Whatever the style, for most Burmese ,Mohinga is a way of life. But then they are wary of Mohinga that appears in the ‘catch phrase’, You are invited for Mohinga. Literally, it means you are asked to report for volunteer work – to contribute labour, take part in such activities as the junta-sponsored anti-democracy protests, like it or not.

For most Burmese struggling to make ends meet the popular cuisine may not taste as good as it used to be. The quality of Mohinga now reflects the economic chaos under the repressive military regime. Hopefully, with a genuine change in regime and democratic reforms, there will be a resurgence of truly tasty Mohinga and Burmese cuisine.



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