A Popular Fish Curry

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Myanmar people living with a coastline that is one thousand four hundred miles long, where the sea washes the beaches of five states and divisions and teems with luscious lobsters,delicious red snappers, pomfret of singular pleasure,and squid of exotic texture,should be expected to love seafood.

Yet it is otherwise. Why? It is because they have the fresh waters of the Ayeyarwady, Chindwin and Myitnge, Sittaung and Thanlwin, the numerous creeks of the Delta and the chaungs everywhere populated with such a variety of tasty fishes that the description would cover the pages of a thick-size book. Thus, the Myanmar peopble have come to prefer freshwater fish through the ages and it has taken years of promotion to accept marine products which are in demand in other countries.

A fine fish much liked in the home and often seen in the kitchen is the nga-gjin (Cirrhina mrigala). It is a fish whose bones are easy to remove, thus is the preferred fish for an attractive dish for guests at dinner. On such occasions it is served in the formal style, si-bjan, "returning oil", with a lot of oil and condiments to form a gravy. An alternative dish which radically reduces the oil is nga-baun, "steamed fish" with preserved soya bean, a fragrant and tasty dish. A family style when guests are not present is hsi-zu, where the fish is half fried and then cooked in oil.

For people who like the added flavour of oil in the fish can deep-fry the carp or clad it in batter. For people who relish the deep scent of wood-smoke can toast the fish clamped between split bamboo over a wood-fire. 

A style with an agrarian touch is the nga-gjin-yei-gjou, a recipe redolent of creeks flowing through sunny paddy fields and smelling of water with fish among the roots of bushes on the mudflats. Its characteristic is dish where enough water remains with the oil in the cooking liquor, hence its title si-gjan-yei-gjan. The recipe familiar to women in small towns and villages follows.


  • 3.4 lbs filleted fish
  • 4.5 oz oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 inch ginger root
  • 1 teaspoon pounded garlic
  • 2 tablespoon pounded onion
  • 1/2 cup tamarind liquor
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup snipped coriander leaves
  • dash of salt
  • sufficient water to cover fillet

Steps to cook

Marinate the fillet of fish with salt, turmeric, chili and fish sauce. Put marinated fish together with garlic, onion, ginger, tamarind liquor and oil in cooking pot with sufficient water to cover all. Bring to boil and continue for 15 minutes. Sprinkle the coriander leaves and remove from stove. Serves a dozen persons. 

Mya Zin



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