In search of Burmese fish noodle soup in Yangon | Travel


In Myanmar, a land with more than 130 distinct ethnic groups and almost as many languages, there’s one thing that almost everybody can agree on: mohinga (fish noodle soup). Many Burmese still start their day with this rib-sticking working class staple. The unofficial national dish is served bobbing with vermicelli, fortified with ground chickpeas and laced with a subtle underlying funk from dried catfish powder. Garnishes range from hard-boiled eggs to fried crullers and chickpea fritters. It isn’t much to look at but the broth, humming with turmeric, pepper, lemongrass, ginger and other spices, is hard to resist. A squeeze of lime, a fistful of coriander and a sprinkle of chilli flakes add brightness.


People eating mohinga in downtown Yangon. Photograph: Getty Images

Recipes for mohinga vary and the dish’s origins remain unknown, though some have speculatively traced its ancestry back to Chinese noodle soups. Regardless of where it came from, it has been a constant throughout Myanmar’s conflict-riddled history. The Burmese have slurped these noodles through British colonialism, Japanese occupation and the iron rule of the military junta.

Today, mohinga vendors in Yangon still do a brisk business. Most sell out quickly, so to make sure you snag a bowl at the popular Myaungmya Daw Cho Mohinga (various locations, on Facebook) you’ll want to rise early, when monks still walk the streets collecting alms and the markets are teeming with activity. Though the Burmese prefer to eat the steaming soup before the sweltering midday temperatures set in, travellers inclined to sleep a little later should pay a visit to Lucky Seven Tea Shop (49th Street, +95 1 292 382), an old-school eatery that serves the speciality all day long.

Perhaps one of the clearest sign of the changing times in Yangon is that more modern restaurants with air-con and wifi now serve their own upscale renditions of the dish. At Rangoon Tea House (Pansodan Road, on Facebook) the mohinga comes with daggertooth fish brought in fresh from Rakhine State and a saffron-yolked duck egg. At K5,000 (£3), it’s 10 times the price of its streetside equivalent. Purists may balk at this bourgeois reinterpretation, but it has been a runaway bestseller since it debuted. The dish has become so popular that this year the restaurant introduced “Mohinga Mondays,” when the kitchen ladles out half-priced bowls. It just goes to show that even as the country evolves, its taste for comfort food will always remain.



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