Monday, 9 December 2013

Mohinga Recipe - Burmese Catfish Chowder - Burma's National Dish

Mohinga, Burma's Breakfast of Choice

Bursting with contrasting textures, fragrances, and flavours, mohinga is a Burmese catfish chowder served over rice vermicelli. It's the breakfast of choice wherever you go in Burma, and considered our national dish.

As soon as we're back in Yangon, my family and I will devour bowl after bowl of mohinga, brought home in huge metal tiffin carriers from the nearest street vendor, or eaten in situ at our favourite stall.

Heaped with crispy split-peas, slices of soft duck egg, bouncy fishcake, and fresh feathery coriander leaves, with extra fish sauce and lime to squeeze on the side, it's hard to know when to stop, and for many, their love for mohinga borders on obsession.

Mohinga is usually made with small river catfish known in Burmese as nga gyi, nga ku or nga yunt which I believe are related to the Pangas catfish.

While you can't get the same fish in the West, I've found that a combination of tinned mackerel and sardines can successfully replicate the flavour of authentic mohinga. My father said, in slightly offensive astonishment, that this tastes "just like the real deal".

Photo by Feast To The World

Burmese Catfish Chowder - Mohinga Recipe

Serves 6-8

For the broth:

  • 5 tbsp gram flour 
  • 2 tbsp rice flour 
  • 2 tins of mackerel in brine (~200g) 
  • 1 tin of sardines in oil (~100g) 
  • 500ml vegetable or fish stock 
  • 2 large onions, quartered 
  • Handful of shredded banana blossom (see NOTE below)
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce (known in Burmese as ngan-bya-yay

For the spice paste:

  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled 
  • 3cm knob of fresh root ginger, peeled 
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, trimmed of woody bits 
  • 1 small bunch of fresh coriander, stems only 
  • 6 tbsp groundnut or other neutral oil 
  • 1 tbsp mild chilli powder
  • 1 tbsp ground turmeric 
  • 1 tsp hot paprika 
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper 

To serve:

  • 600g dried rice vermicelli noodles 
  • 200g ready-made fishcake, sliced (available from Oriental/Asian supermarkets) 
  • Wedges of hard-boiled eggs 
  • 1 small bunch of fresh coriander leaves, chopped 
  • Fried shallots
  • Lime wedges 
  • Fish sauce
  • Chilli oil
  • Yellow split pea crackers (be-gyun kyaw) (recipe to follow)
  • Crispy garlic oil (recipe to follow)

Toast the gram flour and rice flour by tossing in a dry frying-pan on a medium-high heat for 5-6 minutes till fragrant. Watch like a hawk and keep moving the pan, since it can catch and turn black in seconds. Leave to cool and then sieve the toasted flours.

Whisk the sieved flours with 500ml water in a bowl or jug till smooth. Set this flour solution to one side.

Toast the flours

Now make the spice paste - blitz the garlic, ginger, lemongrass and coriander stems in a blender or food processor until it forms a purée.

Heat the oil in a stockpot on medium-high and add the purée and the rest of the spices. Fry for 3-4 minutes till fragrant.

Fry the spice paste

Now add the fish as well as the oil and brine from the tins to the stockpot and mash them with a masher or a fork till smooth.

Stir to combine with the spice paste and then add the flour solution you made earlier as well as the stock.

Mash the tinned fish

Bring to the boil, turn the heat down to medium and simmer vigorously for 30 minutes.

Now add the quartered onions, the banana blossom if using and 2 litres of water, turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer for 2 more hours, stirring from time to time.

Simmering onions

Meanwhile, put the noodles into a heatproof bowl, generously cover with just-boiled water, untangle with a fork and then leave to soak for 15 minutes. Drain the noodles into a colander and rinse them thoroughly with cold running water.

Leave the colander in the sink to allow any residual water to keep draining. The Burmese don't like mushy or starchy noodles and this process gives the best result.

Rice vermicelli draining on the top left

Just before you're ready to serve, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a frying-pan on medium, add the fishcake and fry for 5 minutes till golden. Set to one side.

When you're ready to serve, stir the fish sauce into the stockpot of broth.

Now divide the noodles amongst pasta plates (should be about a handful in each), and ladle the hot soup on top (which will reheat the noodles).

Garnish each dish with fishcake, chunks of split pea cracker, egg and coriander leaves and serve with lime wedges, fish sauce and chilli and garlic oil on the side.

As for utensils, ideally you should use metal Chinese spoons as you can see in all the photos and the video. We actually call them mohinga zun which means "mohinga spoons" in Burmese.

Failing that, use tablespoons, but never ever ever eat mohinga with chopsticks - it's the heinous equivalent of heating gazpacho ...

All for me ...

NOTE: Mohinga should be made with the stem of the banana plant, but this isn't available in the West as far as I know. A good substitute is fresh shredded banana blossom - you can buy whole flowers/buds and prepare it yourself (just the white part) or buy ready-sliced in packets in Vietnamese supermarkets where it's known as  Bắp Chuối.

Here's a good review of where to eat mohinga in Yangon, by the London Review of Breakfasts.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Sensio Masha Review + Win an Electric Masher in Time for Christmas COMPETITION [CLOSED]


I don't know much about Ina Garten aka the Barefoot Contessa, but I caught a British-themed episode of her cookery show where she made "bangers and mash" using an electric blender to make her mashed potato. 

As any fule kno, this will result in an abysmal, gluey slop similar to wallpaper paste, rather than the glorious mash that we know and love (although I have been assured that Americans of a certain generation prefer their mashed potatoes made that way).

Testing, testing

No, there's no substitute for a bit of old-fashioned elbow grease - or at least that's what I thought until I came across something called a Masha on Big Spud's excellent blog. As I'm weaning my baby daughter, I was up for anything that might make life a bit easier, so I was pleased to be sent one too.

The Masha is the size of a stick blender but a little lighter. All the moving parts are made of plastic, which I like very much as blades seem to be drawn to me (or vice versa). You just click the green part into the white part, place it over the veg (or fruit) to be mashed, press a button and lower the Masha into the veg repeatedly. 

That green thing is the "blade"

The idea is that the green "propellor" part pushes the veg into the white "sieve" so the tool extrudes the veg rather than blends it, which is how wallpaper paste is avoided.

It's fairly quiet and it works very quickly - I dealt with a large saucepan of spuds in five seconds. I even made a video which I'll upload if I can ever get it off my phone.

What we need is a few good taters

Butternut Squash
Butternut Squish

The Masha was equally good with butternut squash, although as the water content is higher, it resulted in more of a puree than mash. 

With parsnip, I had to be a bit more careful and go over it twice as a few small lumps were left, but that's still only ten seconds to fluffy parsnip mash.

So would I recommend the Masha? Yes, it's quick, fairly compact, easy to use and easy to wash up.

Baby portions

With my almost ten month old still showing no signs of teeth, I think I'll be using this for a good while.

And even after her chompers appear, it will still save me time and god knows that's a premium with a baby in the house, but hey, please don't feel like you have to procreate before you can find the thing handy. 

It makes short work of any veg or fruit (I use it to make guacamole too) and is apparently great for making mayonnaise or whipping cream.

She loves it

You can see the Masha in action and buy one for yourself at The A Range website for £34.99, but you can also win one right here - yes, it's COMPETITION TIME!



MPL Home/Sensio is offering a Masha to one Meemalee reader. The prize includes free delivery within the UK in time for Christmas.


Leave a comment below telling me your favourite way to eat potatoes - be it chips, roasties, mash ...
  • Entry restricted to readers in the UK.
  • The deadline for entries is 11.59pm GMT Monday 9 December 2013.
  • I reserve the right to alter the closing date of the competition. Changes to the closing date, if they occur, will be shown on this page.
  • The winner will be selected from all valid entries using a random number generator.
  • The prize is offered and provided by MPL Home/Sensio. I accept no responsibility for the acts or defaults of that third party.
  • Entries must provide a valid email address for contacting the winner.
  • The winner will be notified by email or Twitter. If no response is received within 7 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.
I was sent a review Masha by MPL Home/Sensio. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

How to Make Burmese Coconut Chicken Noodles on the MiMi Cookery Show [VIDEO]


It's the MiMi Cookery Show! Ha, not really.

So you know Vouchercodes - those guys that email you handy discount codes for shops like Clark's and Dorothy Perkins?

Turns out that they also have an online magazine called Most Wanted which is oddly hidden away in the top right of their website.

Most Wanted is full of rather good articles and handy money-saving tips - eg how to stream music for free or how to achieve Jennifer Lawrence's smokey eye makeup.

"Now add the chicken to the stockpot"

It also has a Food and Drink section, which is currently running a series called "Afford Autumn Food". It even has its own hashtag on Twitter - #AffordAutumnFood.

Vouchercodes asked me to take part in the series, so I went along to the beautiful cookery school Food at 52 to spend a couple of hours filming this How-To video.

"It should be starting to smell fragrant"

Anyway, here is the result - watch the video below to see me do a Nigella and show you how to make Ohn-No Khao Swè aka Burmese Coconut Chicken Noodles.

Note that you could substitute tofu as the protein in the dish - you could even use butternut squash for the proper autumnal feel. The main thing is the sauce.

You can find the full recipe for Burmese Coconut Chicken Noodles on Most Wanted here

As a bit of background, ohn-no khao swè is a relative newcomer to Burma, despite its current popularity within Burma and even renown as a precursor to Thailand's khao soi.

It came from lower Burma, and was first found in Moulmein - it's similar to laksa, so I suspect it must have come from laksa country, eg Malaysia or Singapore.

My parents say the dish was first available in Yangon, post-war, but didn't reach Mandalay till the 1960s, and it got to the Shan State even later than that.

 At any rate, coconuts are only grown on the coast in Burma. They're traditionally feared as being a bit of an unknown ingredient and a contributor to hypertension - in fact, evaporated and/or condensed milk is often used as a "healthy" substitute for coconut milk in this dish as I discussed previously ...

As a result, coconuts are only used in Burmese desserts, ohn-no khao swè, and ohn htamin (coconut rice, which again probably came from elsewhere).

Because they're relatively uncommon and considered a treat, fresh green coconuts are prized as offerings to Nats (our Animist spirits), monasteries and pagodas, and they're essential for shinbyu ceremonies. Shinbyu is, I guess, the Burmese Buddhist equivalent of the Jewish Bar Mitzvah, where boys spend a short while as novice monks.

Soft-boiled eggs
Wheat noodles
Chicken for the broth
"Next week, I'll be showing you how to make cronuts ... NOT".

You can also see my friends Gary and Helly pretend to be Nigella as follows:

Thursday, 29 August 2013

How to Make a Ramen Egg - Recipe (Hanjuku Egg, Nitamago, Ajitsuke Tamago)

Ramen egg in situ

People complain that it's hard to get around in Japan because you're literally lost in translation. This isn't true for a number of reasons which I won't go into now, but especially when it comes to food.

Most restaurants, even the high-end ones, have amazing plastic models in their windows called "sampuru" which show you pretty much exactly what you're going to get; when you get inside, the menus often contain pictures; and a lot of more casual places make you order in advance from a machine which has photos of all the dishes (it's a bit like buying a car park ticket, but what you get in return is a hell of a lot more fun).

Choosing noodle options in Osaka

I loved using these machines because you could easily build up the craziest order possible without any confusion - press this button for extra noodles, that button for tempura on the side - but my favourite button was the one which got you a ramen egg.

A ramen egg, if you're unaware, is the second most delicious soft-boiled egg in the world* in my opinion. 

Super-soft ramen egg

Also known as a hanjuku egg, ni-tamago or ajitsuke tamago, a ramen egg is soft-boiled so the white is cooked through, but the yolk remains molten (in fact some people refer to it as a lava egg or molten egg) and it's then marinated in a soy sauce mix.

A bowl of ramen in Japan just isn't right without one of these eggs, though it goes very well with other noodle dishes such as soba and udon, and it even makes a fantastic sandwich - just smush one down in some bread and butter.

Random Cooking
A firmer Ramen Egg


Makes 6
  • 6 eggs (I use Burford Browns for their gorgeous yolks)
For the marinade
  • 3 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp mirin or dry sherry
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • Pinch of instant dashi/Marigold bouillon/MSG (optional)

Whisk the marinade ingredients together in a small bowl or jug and set to one side.

Soft-boil your eggs - I use this method. As soon as they are cool enough to touch, peel them very carefully, making sure you don't split the whites.

Random Cooking
Eggs in soy marinade

Place the peeled eggs in a large ziplock bag and pour the marinade on top. 

Roll the eggs around in the marinade, and then tie the bag tightly shut.

Random Cooking
Make sure the eggs are completely covered in marinade

Place the bag of eggs in a bowl and leave in the fridge overnight (turn them once though for even coverage). 

The next day, when you're ready to eat them - on noodles, on rice, in a sandwich, in a ramen burger - slice your ramen eggs in half and enjoy.

My friend Cherry from Feed The Tang even serves an amazing canapé at her supperclub Fed by Tang where she tops ramen eggs with ikura ie salmon roe - actual genius.

Heaven in egg form

*(the first being an onsen egg, recipe coming soon ...)

Monday, 26 August 2013

How to Make a Ramen Burger - Recipe

Ramen Burger by meemalee
Ramen Burgers

Hot on the heels of the food trend known as the cronut comes the Ramen Burger.

Made popular by Keizo Shimamoto, writer of the blog Go Ramen! and now ramen chef in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, this culinary mash-up is a sister to MOS Burger's famous rice burger, this time using ramen noodles as the unlikely burger receptacle - ie the ramen is the burger bun.

And like MOS Burger, its roots come from Japan - unsurprising as Shimamoto, a second-generation American Japanese-American, ditched his career in finance to study the art of ramen in Tokyo itself.

Ramen Burger by meemalee
Looks good, huh?

The Japanese forerunner to the ramen burger is more traditional - all the usual elements are there, including cha shu pork, naruto fishcake, menma bamboo shoots, spring onions - portable ramen - whereas the American Ramen Burger is a proud fusion, much like Shimamoto himself.

The most famous of the old-school ramen burgers comes from Furusato-tei in Kitakata City, but the ramen burger in its present form was introduced to the world by fast food chain (and one of my favourites) Lotteria. And now Shimamoto has taken the idea and run with it, using 75% lean USDA prime beef and fresh ramen noodles from Sun Noodle, a leading US ramen maker.

My version takes the ramen burger back to Japan - using pork, Japanese mushrooms, spring onions, tonkatsu sauce and chilli oil. It's a bit of a faff, but I think it's worth the effort.


Serves 2


  • 2 individual packets of instant noodles (I like Koka Stir-fried flavour)
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 egg, beaten with a tbsp water
  • 2 pork burgers
  • 1 eringi mushroom, sliced
  • 1 spring onions, green and white parts, shredded (I had Chinese chives too)
  • Tonkatsu sauce (buy ready-made or use my recipe here)
  • Chilli oil

Ramen Burger by meemalee
Instant noodle plus beaten egg

Slightly over-cook the noodles in boiling water for 6-8 minutes. Drain and mix in one of the seasoning sachet (there is usually one in each packet of noodles), plus the sesame oil. 

Let the noodles to cool for 5 minutes, then add the egg and stir through so that the noodles are coated. They will congeal - this is actually what you want. 

Ramen Burger by meemalee
Getting ready to shape the buns

Divide the noodles and pack into four ramekins, cooking rings, burger moulds or other round containers, lined with greaseproof paper. 

Ramen Burger by meemalee
Weighing down the buns

Place another circle of greaseproof paper on top of each noodle patty and then place a smaller container on top of this to press the patties down. 

I also weighed them each down with cans of beans. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Ramen Burger by meemalee
Pressed noodle buns

When the time is up, you'll see that the noodles have formed patty shapes. 

Cook your burgers and mushrooms (I grilled the burgers and fried the mushrooms in a tbsp oil).

Ramen Burger by meemalee
Eringi mushroom, Spring Onions, Chinese chives

Heat a tbsp oil in a large frying pan on high till sizzling, and then turn down to a medium heat and fry the now-moulded noodle patties for three minutes on each side. 

Apart from flipping them once, do not be tempted to move the noodle patties - you want to avoid collapse, and they need to form a brown crust.

Ramen Burger by meemalee
Frying the pressed noodle buns

Flip the patties onto two plates, snipping off any rogue noodles if necessary.

Then fill each pair of patties with the burger, the mushrooms, spring onions, tonkatsu sauce, and chilli oil. 

Eat immediately.

Ramen Burger by meemalee
Ramen burger topped with spring onions, Chinese chives, chilli oil, and fried eringi mushroom

The noodle "buns" have a light toasted crust outside, but are still soft and yielding inside, rather like baked polenta. The texture works surprisingly well with the meat.

In future, I'd go even more traditional and use cha shu pork belly, or maybe left field with a crispy tonkatsu fillet.

I think it would also be great with pork belly, sweet peanuts and preserved mustard greens - the fillings for the Taiwanese pork bun, gua bao.

But I had the pork burgers to use, so hey.

Ramen Burger by meemalee
Let's see that again
Ramen Burger by meemalee
It holds together and is really rather good

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

I Don't Like Crickets ... Sous Chef and the Rentokil Restaurant

Bugs, Crickets, Grasshoppers
I have small hands and all

Growing up in Britain as a Burmese child was weird in a lot of ways.

One of these was that my diet was entirely Burmese at home. I didn't really cook or shop for food for myself till I was at college, so I genuinely never realised for example that asparagus made your wee smell (in fact, I used to think that there was something up with my future in-laws' plumbing, since their house was the only place I ate the stuff).

Bugs, Crickets, Grasshoppers
A plate of  fried crickets in Burma

And I didn't know that avocados could be savoury as I'd only had them in milkshakes and ice cream, and I only got to eat fish and chips from a bag when there was a power cut. I had my first McDonalds when I was 12 - and yet I had my first cricket when I was 8.

Crickets - those chirpy little beggars with too many legs and antennae. Known as payit in Burma, and sold on the streets of Mandalay and Yangon in huge bamboo trays, they were meaty and crunchy and incredibly delicious, fried in lashings of garlic, ginger and salt.

I knew that they weren't your usual snack - even I wasn't that dense - but, as the bugs were introduced to me at such a young age, I had no qualms at all at tucking in (and I'm still just as adventurous).

Bugs, Crickets, Grasshoppers
Cricket seller in Burma

So I was amused to see that Rentokil (yes, them) is running a one day pop-up restaurant at One New Change in London tomorrow from 10.30 am, exhorting people to try "BBQ grasshoppers and chocolate dipped bugs" amongst other things. There's no charge for the food either.

The Pestaurant (sic) has been billed as "exotic", which I guess is unsurprising as a large number of people in the UK still seems to think chicken on the bone is foreign, but if I was free during the day tomorrow, I'd obviously be there like a shot.

Bugs, Crickets, Grasshoppers
Rentokil Restaurant

If you're also intrigued by edible insects (they're a future food, after all) and you can't make it down there either, I have two suggestions for you:
  1. Visit Archipelago, the other bastion of edible creepy crawlies;
  2. Go online to Sous Chef and buy some bugs for yourself.

Now, Sous Chef is my new favourite website, supplying hard-to-find ingredients to the home chef - and amongst all the other culinary wonder, they've just started stocking fried grasshoppers called chapulines from Oaxaca, Mexico.

Bugs, Crickets, Grasshoppers
Wooden Tortoise is unimpressed

Of course, I couldn't resist ordering a pack. When they arrived though, I was a bit startled to find how tiny they were.

It's not just that the bugs were bigger because I was a wee lass - just look at the size of our Burmese crickets.

Bugs, Crickets, Grasshoppers
This is a normal sized man selling the crickets

Anyway, I shared the pack with my brother and my father, who agreed with me that, although fresh-fried crickets in Burma are the cricket connoisseur's choice, these Mexican grasshoppers weren't bad at all.

Fried in chilli and lemon, perhaps they're a little sour to eat by themselves, but I can see that ground up they'd make a lovely garnish to a salad (or the suggested fajitas) - rather like a more savoury sumac.

And of course you can also use them to freak other people out, like I did my nephew, though the niece was quite keen - she obviously takes after me.

Bugs, Crickets, Grasshoppers
I don't like crickets (I love them)

Monday, 12 August 2013

Shan-Burmese Cauliflower and Carrot Pickle Recipe

Spicy Shan Cauliflower and Carrot Pickle - meemalee
Spicy Shan Cauliflower and Carrot Pickle

Pickling is in my blood. As you know, I'm Burmese, but Burma aka Myanmar is made up of over 100 ethnic groups. A large part of me is Shan, one of the more prominent of these ethnic groups, who primarily live in a rural, hilly region in Burma known as the Shan State.

Traditionally tall and fair, and cousins to the Dai people in Thailand, the Shan are rather fond of pickles (and noodles, and pork - often the three in combination).

All manner of Shan pickles for sale in Mandalay

The classic Shan pickle is mohnyin-tjin, but as wonderful as this is, it takes a little effort and patience to make (by patience, I mean at least a week, kimchi-style). 

This recipe is for one of my favourite overnight pickles, using cauliflower and carrot, both of which are hard to come by in lower Burma, but plentiful in the Shan State.

Spicy Shan Cauliflower and Carrot Pickle - meemalee

Though of course carrots and cauliflowers aren't rare in the UK, you may not find the pickling spice Shan hnan ("Shan sesame") in this country - although if someone can look at the photo below and let me know if you can get it here and what it's called, that would be brilliant.

I find however that black mustard seed is an excellent substitute in terms of both texture and flavour.

Spicy Shan Cauliflower and Carrot Pickle - meemalee
Shan hnan ("Shan sesame")

The vinegar that's traditionally used is a sweetish by-product from palm toddy-making, but malt vinegar works well instead.

Shan Cauliflower and Carrot Pickle
Shan Hbun-Mohnlar Kar-Jet-Oo A Tchin


  • 1 large cauliflower, broken into florets
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and sliced into thin half moons
  • 1 heaped tbsp caster sugar
  • Malt vinegar
  • 1 inch knob of fresh ginger root, skin on
  • 6 cloves of garlic, skin on
  • Groundnut or other neutral oil
  • 1 heaped tbsp chilli powder
  • Large handful of black mustard seeds

Put the cauliflower and carrots in a large non-reactive bowl with the sugar and just enough vinegar to moisten ie as if you're dressing a salad. 

Mix everything well, cover and leave overnight in the fridge.

Spicy Shan Cauliflower and Carrot Pickle - meemalee
Carrots and cauliflower pickling in sugar and vinegar

Remove the bowl of carrots and cauliflower from the fridge and have it ready next to the hob.

Chop the garlic and ginger roughly, leaving the skin on. Part of the flavour of this pickle comes from the skin - you can pick the bits out afterwards.

Spicy Shan Cauliflower and Carrot Pickle - meemalee
Chopped garlic and ginger with the skin left on deliberately

Heat a few millimetres depth of oil in a large frying pan on high till it sizzles, and add the ginger and garlic. 

Fry for a minute, and then add the chilli powder and the mustard seeds and stir-fry for another minute. 

Spicy Shan Cauliflower and Carrot Pickle - meemalee
Garlic and ginger sizzling in hot oil

At this point the seeds should start to pop and dance in the pan a little bit, and everything should smell fragrant.

Pick up the frying pan with both hands and pour the sizzling oil and all the bits in it onto the cauliflower and carrot.

Shan cauliflower and carrot pickle - meemalee
Mustard seeds popping in the hot oil

Mix thoroughly to "cook" the pickled vegetables.

Your spicy Shan cauliflower and carrot pickle is immediately ready to eat. It will keep in a jar or sealed Tupperware for a couple of days, but then will lose its crunch.

Spicy Shan Cauliflower and Carrot Pickle - meemalee
Mixed pickle

This Shan pickle is traditionally eaten in Burma with noodles and rice, but it also works in sandwiches and with hot and cold meats. 

Think of it as a type of piccalilli or relish - you can have it as part of a ploughman's lunch, with a pork pie, on a hot dog, in a burger ...

Spicy Shan Cauliflower and Carrot Pickle - meemalee
Doesn't last long in my house