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Sunday, July 21, 2013

West Coast Mohinga

I think this is my most successful Burmese dish.  I feel more connected to the tradition and concept of Burmese cuisine after making my first mohinga.  Mohinga is the claimed national dish in Myanmar.  It is usually eaten for breakfast, but can be found in tea shops at all times of the day.  Every region makes their mohinga differently, and I'm pretty sure even if I make it again it will not be the same because of all the customizing and toppings you can add and swap.  It's like a topping party!
This is another one from Burma: Rivers of Flavor p 256.
Serves 4
1.5 - 2lb (approx 1kg) whole fish, cleaned and scaled (I used mackerel, cod, and sardine)
2 Tbsp peanut oil (I used sesame)
1/4 tsp turmeric
cooked rice noodles (I used the flat ones)
5 cups water
1 tsp shrimp paste
2 Tbsp chopped galangal (I used 4 slices dried)
2 Tbsp chopped garlic
2 tsp fish sauce
piece of banana stem (I didn't have any)
toasted chickpea flour
chopped cilantro
fish sauce
shallot or garlic oil (sesame oil)
crushed peanuts
hardboiled egg
black pepper
tamarind water (1 Tbsp concentrate diluted in 1/2 cup water)
red chili paste
fried shallots
thai chili
grilled sardines (not in the book)
1.  Make the broth by bringing to a boil the water, shrimp paste (don't smell it!!!), galangal, and garlic.  Add the whole fish and poach for about 4 minutes.
2.  Take off heat and remove the fish from the pot.  Let cool, then use your hands to separate the flesh from the head and bones.  Squeeze all the water out of the flesh and set aside.  Add the skin, heads, and bones back into the pot and simmer for at least 10 minutes.
3.  While that's happening, heat the oil in a wok, then add the turmeric and let it fizz.  Add the fish flesh and stir so it all gets a nice yellow coat.  Cook until flaky and dry, then set aside.
4.  Back to the broth.  Strain it of all its solids, then add 2 tsp fish sauce and the banana stem, if you were lucky enough to find one.  I forgot to look for it during my spice hunt.  I have no idea what it is supposed to taste like.  Oh well.  Keep simmering for a while, while you get the toppings and noodles ready, for instance.
5.  Serve.  Place some rice noodles in a bowl.  Add 1 tsp chickpea flour, 1 Tbsp tamarind water, a few drops sesame oil or shallot oil, some chopped cilantro, black pepper, peanuts, fried shallots, flaked fish, egg, chili, and chili paste.  Ladle the broth over the noodles and toppings.

When you taste, a warmth will hit you.  You will be surprised at the comfort you feel as you slurp the noodles, adjusting the toppings to suit your desires.
I got an extremely positive reaction:  "Wow this tastes wonderful" which is a rare to hear.  Not that I don't usually cook well, but I rarely get compliments without asking.  Today I got a spontaneous compliment.. on a fish meal... which is even more rare.
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