Burmese food

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Burmese mohinga for breakfast

No two bowls of mohinga are ever the same, but this version, with a big dollop of pungent balachaung sauce on top, is pretty representative.

We haven’t really eaten much in the way of Burmese food here in Burma. Which I hear isn’t all that unusual. The Burmese are under the impression that Westerners don’t appreciate their cuisine. Which may or may not be true (how can you dislike something if you never taste it?). Surprisingly (or maybe not), the better the hotel, the less likely you’ll get a good meal. The four- and five-star resorts stay away from anything too exotic. Instead, you get mediocre Italian, lousy French, and boring American.

In Burma, everyone—and I mean everyone—has mohinga for breakfast, a sort of rice noodle soup made with a pungent fish broth and seasoned with a ubiquitous Burmese condiment called balachaung, made from dried shrimp, tamarind, shallots, turmeric, garlic, onions, chili, and god knows what else. I’ve asked the staff at our hotel restaurant for mohinga and they just laugh and point towards the sidewalk stands nearby which, unfortunately, are never open when I’m having breakfast. No mohinga here.

You don’t think they’re going to offer Americans stinky fish noodle soup for breakfast, do you? Instead, we get flat omelettes. And runny scrambled eggs. Nasty looking sausages and limp bacon. Sigh. Usually I’ll just ask for a pot of tea and make myself a fruit plate: dragon fruit, papaya, bananas—whatever looks good. But what I would do for a stinky bowl of mohinga.

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