My comfort food: porridge

Everyone has their own comfort food, and mine happens to be porridge. Rice porridge  or congee as they call it in the western world. Some of my friends feel that porridge is something that you eat when you’re sick but I don’t think so . I’ve always eaten porridge for breakfast as a kid and I never seem to get sick of it (pun unintended. Haha).

My favorite kind of porridge is mincemeat porridge cooked by granny, and she calls it “mushy porridge” because she prepares it in the slow cooker overnight and it’s a perfect baby porridge consistency in the morning. You can hardly discern the grains anymore. No matter how sleepy I am, or if I didn’t want breakfast, I would always have second helpings when this was for breakfast. It was easy with the slow cooker – just dump all the ingredients in, season with some oyster sauce, light soya sauce, sesame oil (very important ingredient!!) and leave it to cook on low overnight, a minimum of 8 hours.

When I crave for an easy and light meal, I experiment with different ingredient combinations and flavor bases.

One of my favorite combinations was taught to me by my university housemate. She would combine chopped cabbage, fried ikan bilis, sliced carrots and a handful of dried scallops and boil them all with the raw rice. We often cook this for Sunday lunches because that’s when our groceries run out and we would only have these ingredients to cook lunch that day, so we called it “Sunday porridge”. It’s been almost 10 years since I graduated and I’m still cooking it!

When I feel like having something more substantial, I would make meatball porridge with vegetable. The purpose of me having porridge is to have a one pot meal, so having both my vegetables and protein together is essential. I often use carrots as my vegetable base because they add sweetness and they hold up well after hours of cooking (or at least they don’t disappear into the porridge). As I do not have a slow cooker here, I use my thermal pot instead. It takes maybe 20 minutes of prep work plus boiling it and stirring it, then I put it into the thermal holder and leave it to cook overnight.

With porridge, the possibilities are endless. I have even tried mixing barley grains into my porridge! I won’t leave you with recipes of my porridges since I don’t cook according to a recipe (depends on what I have available in my fridge), but I do have a pretty standard porridge base.

For 2 servings of porridge, I use the following

  • handful of dried scallops, rinsed and soaked (reserve soaking water)
  • handful of dried ikan bilis, rinsed to remove dust
  • 1 small carrot
  • about 1/3 cup of rice (I prefer to use short grain rice)

I boil the above ingredients with about 500ml of water for 20 minutes before transferring to my thermal pot to retain heat and continue cooking. I usually add my proteins just before mealtime to prevent overcooking. Top the porridge with some soy sauce, sesame oil and fried shallots, oh yummy yummy!

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