Porridge.

Such a horrible word, isn’t it?  It  conjures up images of tiny children sadly slurping gray gruel inside dank, cold, gothic-style orphanages in England.  Or maybe I just read too much.  Probably.

But porridge in Asia is an amazing thing! My friend Elisa, who is of Chinese descent but grew up in California, said it is a comfort food that I had to try.  So try it I did.  And it was lovely.  I now find myself searching out the porridge stands, getting upset if they are all out for the day.  I get a big kick out of ordering it, as I get to say ‘porridge’ out loud.  I chuckle to myself, laughing at the ridiculous paradox of the images it still conjures in my head versus the delicious reality.

Now let me tell you all about porridge.  (chuckle chuckle)

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It is also called congee.  It is basically a thick rice soup.  It comes in a few varieties like chicken, fish, and pork.  You can find it at the ubiquitous chicken rice stalls in nearly every food center in Singapore, where they will top it with chopped chicken.  This one at City Square Mall (level 4) tops it with spring onions (I asked for extra) and crunchy fried shallots (yes, they are as good as they sound), and I added some dark soya sauce.  Because it is a chicken rice stall, they have that fantastic ginger garlic chili sauce too.  I tap my spoon in there before I scoop some porridge (chuckle chuckle) to add some heat.  Love it love it love it.

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So yeah, this is my new comfort food.  It warms the belly like chicken soup, probably because it basically is chicken soup, albeit with a ton of rice.  It is filling, and lasts a long time.  I like to read while I eat, so that is a plus.  It forces me to slow down (or it will burn my mouth), and that is a blessing for my type A rush rush rush nature.  Ha, this is the only food post I have managed in months because I keep eating the whole dish before taking a photo.  This is too hot to do that.  Added bonus, it is like a treasure hunt after you stir in all the toppings.  Each scoop brings to the surface a different buried topping.  It’s even a veritable health food with the addition of the hot sauce.  I go through 5-6 tissues as my sinuses clear from the intensity of the sauce.  :D

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I’d make it all the time at home, but try as I might, I can’t seem to get it nice and thick like the professionals do.  At S$4.80 ($3.44 USD) for a big bowl, I probably shouldn’t even bother.  But here is a recipe for you to try this at home (after reading this recipe, I can see why my meager and unguided attempts at home were lackluster).  Here is also a recipe for ginger garlic chili sauce.  Give it shot!  Or just come out here to visit me, and I will bring you along.  :)

 

Jennifer Jasensky is a Dubai resident, United States transplant, former mathematics teacher and dancer/choreographer. She is an outgoing homebody and perpetual idealist whose love of learning knows no bounds. She is most happy enjoying a good book with a plate of kaya toast, runny eggs, and kopi-c peng siew dai, but now that she has moved from
Singapore to Dubai, drinking an iced latte in the ocean is fast becoming her happy place.

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