Myanmar Baked Fish

Far from amenities while trekking, meals are seldom great. Sometimes, even rice would be a luxury. But there was one meal I had years ago while trekking in the Shan Hills of Myanmar that was most unforgettable. My guide Kenny prepared some baked fish for lunch.

Inle Lake

We started our trek from the shore of Inle Lake at an altitude of almost 900m above sea level. Kenny bought a big fish at the market that morning, then brought it home where he seasoned it and wrapped it in aluminium foil. A porter carried the fish and some of our other stuff in his backpack.

Our destination that afternoon was a PaO village near a ridge which Kenny called Elephant Hill, some 1500m above sea level. Like most hilltibe villages, it was a house on stilts, made from wood and bamboo. Drying cheroot leaves occupied most of the space in and around the house. Typical of hilltibe houses, there was a hearth in the kitchen area.

HDR hearth

The floor was lined with metal and all the cooking was done over wood fire. Kenny placed the foil-wrapped fish over some glowing wood and 30 minutes later, the rice was cooked and a marvellous baked fish was laid out before us. That was probably the best meal I’ve ever had while trekking.

Working from memory, this was what Kenny used for the seasoning. Salted beans, ginger and slices of lime. Like Kenny, I’ve used aluminium foil, but the fish I’ve used is sea bass – a $6.90 creature bought at Sheng Siong. A fish flown in from Inle Lake would be too costly.

No wood fire in my home, so I popped the fish into an electric oven. I’ve set the oven temperature to about 220oC.

And here’s the fish after 40 minutes of baking. Of course it didn’t taste as good as the luxury I had in the Shan Hills, but it’s still a great treat. Yummy juices.

© Chan Joon Yee

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