About one half of a mile from our gate, there is a little shop we like to frequent. It runs out of a tiny street side home with thin metal walls and a corrugated metal roof. The patrons eat outside of this edifice under brightly colored umbrellas. We can tell whether or not it is open as soon as we turn off our street, as the child-sized tables and chairs will be out on the edge of the street, waiting for occupants. It is typical here for rice shops and street side food establishments to have chairs and tables that are similar in size to whatever Fisher Price kitchen set children in America might be using. Full sized chairs and tables are common to the more expensive food shops, and don’t necessarily indicate a higher quality of food or service.
A young mother runs this shop, and her preschool-aged children will be scampering about if we happen by when they’re out of school. She prepares and serves the food from the side of her house, and from where we usually sit, we can see into her workspace: the living/cooking/dining/sleeping area of the two-room abode. Like many women here, she works hard.
We come to this shop for a Rakhine snack called mundi (pronounced “moon-dee”). I call it a snack because a good deal of people in this country would not consider anything a meal unless it has been served with rice. Having hosted local people, I learned quickly that my chicken stew must be served to them over a huge helping of rice, or they would never feel full.
But back to the subject at hand: mundi. This has become one of my favorite snacks. My husband, Jim, having formerly lived in Rakhine state and having consumed plenty of mundi there, expressed his fondness for it, saying that it especially hit the spot as a morning/breakfast snack. I have since joined the mundi fan club as well, and it took little more than a taste. Mundi has a simple, salty flavor, and it’s always served hot. Mundi is, at a basic level, rice noodles suspended in a gentle tasting fish broth. What contributes to its flavor is freshly ground pepper, fresh chopped cilantro, and crisped red pepper and crisped shallots, all added right before serving, so that there is plenty of texture. The bowl of mundi is then topped with crispy fried peanut pieces (one might liken this to putting croutons on your soup back in America). Green chili pepper sauce and fish sauce are always available at the table for customers to add at their discretion. I never have trouble finishing my little bowl of mundi, and the kind proprietor nearly always offers me a second helping of broth when I’ve finished slurping down the contents of the first bowl.
Someday soon, I’ll figure out how to replicate this recipe myself and share it with you. But for now I’m still enjoying my little trots down to visit the mundi lady, her cute offspring, and her tasty 20-cent bowls of Rakhine mundi.