Many know Myanmar as Burma: the land occupied by the British, the land that was devastated during World War II. The British used Myanmar for its rich resources (including rice, crude oil, and precious jewels) and as a battleground against the Japanese. Myanmar was destroyed not only from the warfare of both sides, but from the British destroying its resources intentionally in hopes the Japanese would not get them. Myanmar was a wealthy nation within its region when the British were there. It all disappeared after the war, becoming the poorest of Southeast Asia, unable to put itself back together after such destruction.
When Myanmar became independent after the war, things didn’t improve. The military created an oppressive, isolated state from the world, and it was among the most repressive countries in the world. Civil war has been a constant presence for its citizens since its independence in 1948. But things seem to be looking up, relatively, for Myanmar: since its government reform in August 2011, things have been slowly improving, including the release of political prisoners and increased civil liberties. In 2013, the first privately owned newspapers began printing for the first time in years. Censorship, a tool of the oppression, is slowly retreating.
Through all of this turmoil, the cuisine has remained intact. And it is delicious. Mohinga is traditionally a breakfast stew, but really, any time of day is a good time to eat Mohinga. It has everything you need to start your morning: a flavorful broth, fresh herbs, lime, and onion, hearty catfish, slurp-worthy rice noodles, and a hard-boiled egg. A far cry from the sugary cereal and pop-tarts of convenience America.
This recipe made a large batch of stew, and luckily, I had some help with eating it all: Spencer and his brother, Wes, also relished in the joys and flavors of Mohinga. There were even a few days when Spencer and I ate Mohinga for two of our three meals. Again, it wasn’t a problem.
Lastly, this summer, I discovered Anthony Bourdain. American, writer, journalist for CNN, traveler, TV host, and former chef, I best describe him as a defender of culture and eating champion. On his CNN show, Parts Unknown, he travels to and explores parts of the world, including the remote and misunderstood, through their cuisine. Wait, isn’t that what I’m doing? From my kitchen? Yes, yes it is, so you clearly see why I enjoy it, and if you’re reading this, perhaps you would too. I mention this show now because Season 1, Episode 1, is Myanmar. Check it out. It’s on Netflix.
Teresa: “What an experience! Incredible meal. I enjoyed every minute of making this dish.”
Spencer: “I am going bold here: No culture does food better than Southeast Asia! This dish is easily in my top five along with Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup.”
Wes: “I really like soups in general, and I haven’t had many better than this! Very flavorful but not overpowering. Amazing soup!”
For the Ground Toasted Rice:
- uncooked jasmine rice
For the Broth:
- freshly ground black pepper
- freshly ground white pepper
- bay leaves
- Kosher salt, to taste
- catfish fillets
For the Soup:
- vegetable oil
- red onions
- fish sauce
- Kosher salt, to taste
- fine round rice noodles
- hopped cilantro
- hard-boiled eggs
- red onion
- The capital of Myanmar is Naypyidaw
- The official language is Burmese
- Almost 90% of the country practices Buddhism, a significant component to Myanmar culture
- The majority of individuals are Baran; there are 135 recognized ethnic groups within the country
- The former capital, Yangon, is the largest city in Myanmar, and contains the largest number of colonial buildings from the British occupation
- Myanmar experienced a refugee crisis in 2015; the Rohingya people, a Muslim minority group, fled Myanmar (and Bangladesh) due to persecution and abandonment from the Myanmar government because of their religion. An estimated 100,000 refugees fled the country by boat, seeking refuge in places like Malaysia and Australia
- This flag was adopted in October 2010, coinciding with officially changing the name of the country to the Republic of the Union of Myanmar
- Myanmar had two flags previously; one created in 1948 (their independence) and another in 1974 (when Myanmar, then Burma, was declared a socialist republic)
- Yellow – solidarity
- Green – peace, tranquility, lush greenery
- Red – courage and determination
- White star – the union of the country