Moh hin gha

Moh hin gha

Rice vermicelli with fish soup

The Complete Asian Cookbook
Alan Benson

The national dish of Burma, 'moh hin gha', is to the Burmese what onion soup is to the French. Bowls of 'moh hin gha' are a popular snack sold at roadside stalls or by vendors who carry their cooking apparatus from house to house on a bamboo pole slung over one shoulder. At one end is the portable fireplace while on the other are all the makings.

While the base of the dish is a curried fish soup, a vital ingredient is the tender heart of a banana tree — common as grass in Burma, but rather hard to come by elsewhere. If you have access to a spare banana tree and are determined to make this dish in the true Burmese fashion, protect your hands with gloves and put on your oldest clothes, because sap from banana trees leaves a stain that defies the best stain removers science has to offer. Use about 30 cm of the tender heart. Peel off the outer layer and discard. Thinly slice the inner portion widthways. Soak in a large basin of salted water for several hours. The sticky juice forms strong hair-like strands. Pull these away and discard. Realising that for most people the idea of getting a banana tree to use in this dish makes the whole thing rather remote, I have suggested using thinly sliced bamboo shoots instead.


Quantity Ingredient
spring onion, thinly sliced
fresh coriander leaves
white onion, thinly sliced
chickpeas, roasted and ground
crisp fried noodles, broken into small pieces
Bawang goreng
garlic cloves, thinly sliced and deep-fried in oil until golden
lemon wedges
dried red chillies, deep-fried whole in oil for 5 seconds
chilli powder
500g strong-flavoured fish fillets
or 2 tins herrings in tomato sauce
4 onions, roughly chopped
6 garlic cloves, peeled
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon chilli powder
2 tablespoons sesame oil
80ml peanut oil
2 fresh chillies, seeded and chopped
1 litre thin coconut milk
1 banana heart
or 255g tinned bamboo shoots
1 teaspoon dried shrimp paste
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon besan
500ml thick coconut milk
2 tablespoons lemon juice
500g rice vermicelli or fine egg noodles


  1. Put the fish in a frying pan with just enough water to cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside, reserving the stock.
  2. Put the onion, garlic, ginger, turmeric and chilli powder into a food processor and process to a purée.
  3. Heat the sesame and peanut oils in a large saucepan and cook the onion mixture and chillies over low heat for 20 minutes, or until the oil returns and the mixture starts to stick to the pan. Add the fish stock, thin coconut milk and banana heart. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer until the banana heart slices are tender. Dissolve the dried shrimp paste in the fish sauce and add to the pan. Mix the besan smoothly with a little cold water or some of the thick coconut milk and add to the pan, stirring constantly as it comes to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, add the fish, thick coconut milk and lemon juice, stirring until heated through. Season with salt, to taste.
  4. Cook the noodles in a saucepan of boiling water until tender. Drain and serve in a large bowl alongside the soup. Have small bowls with the spring onion, fresh coriander leaves, white onion, ground chickpeas, crisp fried noodles, bawang goreng, garlic cloves, lemon wedges, fried red chillies and chilli powder ready on the table. Noodles are served first and soup ladled over the top. Moh hin gha must be served piping hot.
The Complete Asian Cookbook
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