First they came for lahpet thote (not once, not twice, but three times), then they came after Ohno Khao Swe, and now … now, they — those F&B hipsters who can’t stop, won’t stop with their food Frankensteins — have turned Mohinga into a cocktail.
For those who may be unfamiliar with Mohinga, it is a fish-based noodle soup considered by many to be Myanmar’s national dish. It is readily available all over Myanmar, and exists as a beloved standalone dish that — if you ask anyone in the country — resides a tier above other Burmese foods in the hearts of locals as well as visitors from abroad.
Everyone here knows and loves Mohinga, and there are many renditions of it — straight-up and no-frills from the roadside stalls that operate all over Yangon, to more modern, upmarket versions served at well-known restaurants like Rangoon Tea House.
Over this past weekend, Yangon Zay, a sustainable market where visitors pay 6,000 kyats just to get in, saw the city’s socialites, social media influencers, and expat community lining up at the booth set up by SawBwa Coffee, for a taste of their Mohinga Martini.
The fishy cocktail was served in a tall martini glass, and was made with a blend of seaweed, coriander, ginger-infused vermouth, and salmon-washed vodka — yes, you read that right — and topped with crunchy chickpea fritters, which is one of the traditional toppings on a hot, steaming bowl of Mohinga.
The Mohinga Martini stays true to the classic breakfast dish in two key ways: one, it’s crunchy, and two, it’s fishy. The alcohol is a bonus. We guess.
According to Yan Nyein Aung, a Yangon native who tried the drink, it was “a respectable homage to a Burmese breakfast staple” — although, he added, he could also understand that the flavors would not be appealing to everyone.
We talked to the man behind the drink: Bangkok-based mixologist and distiller Mark Lloyd (who’s already known in the Bangkok bar scene for his zero-waste drinks and offbeat cocktail creations).
Lloyd said the Mohinga drink was conceptualized when he thought the flavors of the dish could work as a martini: “I had the idea and took the key flavors away from the Mohinga and added them to the homemade Vermouth,” he told Coconuts Yangon.
The concoction quickly went viral on social media, with netizens sharing the post over 1,500 times and weighing in with jokes, criticisms, and of course, memes.
Despite this, founder of Sawbwa, Samuel Foot, thinks the reaction has largely been “good humored.”
“It’s expected that people would be confused about a cocktail with fish inside. It just reflects what is going on with cocktails and culinary trends outside of Myanmar, with molecular gastronomy and all the weird food mixups,” he told Coconuts Yangon.
He pointed to the Tom Yum cocktail in Thailand, which in recent years has been popping up in more and more cocktail menus across Bangkok, as an example of what is possible with new twists on old classics. Moreover, he said, the “fishy cocktail” as a trend made quite a splash last summer, when mixologists around the world started incorporating fish sauce into their cocktails, to, er, “Asian up” their drinks — which, Foot explains, goes to show that the Mohinga Martini isn’t such a crazy concept.