Bites from Burma

Fish soup for breakfast might sound like something that would make whimsical rhymes for a Dr. Seuss book, but it’s quite popular in Burma, where mohinga (mohingar) is not only the national dish, but it’s also most often eaten in the morning. Though some versions are served with boiled eggs typical of a Western breakfast, fish broth and noodles always serve as the base for a colorful, fragrant feast with lots of flavor layers: garlic, ginger, lemongrass, onions, and more, depending on the region and availability of ingredients. Although popular countrywide, mohinga’s consumed most often in southern Burma, especially in its former capital city of Rangoon. One of our regional associates in Burma, Kyi Kyi Khin, shared this recipe, and it’s just one of the dishes you can try on our new Burma & the Irrawaddy River: Bagan to Mandalay Small Ship CruiseTour.

Mohinga (Fish Noodle Soup)

While mohinga has made the transition to formal feasts and functions, it began as a street food, and hawkers would make the rounds with two cauldrons. On one shoulder, they’d carry the soup cauldron on a stove on one side of a pole and on the other, rice vermicelli, additional ingredients, bowls, and spoons. Trishaw peddlers appeared in the 1960s and set up pavement stalls, making mohinga available throughout the day. Cafes and restaurants followed suit and added the soup to their menus.


3 Tbs. canola oil
1 onion, grated (yellow or white)
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 inch fresh ginger, grated
1 tsp. ground lemongrass (1 stalk)
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. turmeric
6¼ c. water
3 oz. fish sauce
2 small onions, quartered
4 Tbs. rice flour (mixed with a little cold water, to form a “paste”)
1 lb. catfish
1 lb. rice noodles
Optional garnishes:
Limes, quartered
Cilantro leaves, torn
Spring onion (scallion), chopped
Chili flakes


  1. Heat oil in a saucepan. Add grated onion, garlic, ginger, lemongrass (finely chopped, or 1 teaspoon of ground lemongrass), chili powder, and turmeric to the oil. Cook on medium heat until fragrant.
  2. Add water, fish sauce, small onions, and rice flour. Mix well, bring to a boil, and stir thoroughly to remove lumps. Once thickened, reduce to a simmer for about 20 minutes.
  3. Cut fish into chunks, add to the soup, and cook for another 10 minutes.
  4. On the side, boil water and add rice noodles until tender (about 5 minutes), and drain.
  5. Serve soup over the noodles with optional garnishes.

Servings: 4