Porridge – depending on where you hail from, it differs in taste and ingredients. In Asian countries, it usually refers to rice porridge that is often boiled to a gooey mixture. It is also known as congee and can be cooked in different ways. To the westerners, porridge means oatmeal boiled in water or milk.
Porridge or congee is one of the most staple food in many Asian countries, and it can also be served for breakfast. It can be served plain with other stir-fried dishes or boiled with other ingredients like chicken, seafood, vegetables, grains and beans like mung beans or red beans.
Porridge can be cooked in a large pot, rice cooker or instant pot as most of them have a congee mode. The best way to cook porridge is by freezing the rice grain before cooking to hasten the cooking process and make the porridge softer with broken grains. Or you can soak the rice before cooking.
Let’s take a look at porridge found in different countries.
The texture of this porridge is thick, gooey and very savoury. Also known as Arroz Caldo, this porridge is cooked different than the usual porridge. The rice is first fried with chicken, fried onions and garlic before water is added and boiled. This method brings out the smoky and flavouful taste of Arroz Caldo. It is served hot and garnished with sesame oil, chopped spring onions, hard boiled egg, calamansi lime and fried garlic bits.
Thai porridge (Chok)
Chok is the Thai version of the Chinese porridge. Thai jasmine rice is boiled with water and chicken until the broth becomes very thick. Meatballs, liver slices, shredded chicken, shrimps or fish and lightly boiled eggs are typical accompaniments to this porridge. It is garnished with slivered ginger, spring onions, fried garlic and freshly chopped cilantro and served with Thai donuts.
Taiwanese porridge or Giam Mue
The Taiwanese porridge has 2 versions. The first version is just rice cooked plain or with some diced sweet potatoes added. The second version is a traditional version called “Giam Mue” or salty rice porridge. This version includes savoury ingredients like minced meat, shitake mushrooms, dried shrimps, celery, fried shallots and ginger. It is then served hot with sliced yu tiao and garnished with scallions.
The Cantonese porridge is known for its thick, silky smooth and very gooey texture. To cook this porridge requires patience as it needs to be boiled over a stove on low heat, stirred every half an hour so the grains don’t stick to the bottom of the pot. This porridge is usually paired with stir-fried dishes.
Korean porridge (Juk)
Depending on the ingredients and consistency of the porridge, juk is eaten for recuperation or as a delicacy. There are more than 40 varieties of juk, the basic being plain rice porridge. As it is plain, it is served with side dishes like salted seafood, various types of kimchi and other side dishes. Other varieties of juk found in Korea are jatjuk, made from pine nuts, jeonbuk juk, made from abalones, patjuk, made with red bean, hobak juk, made with pumpkin and tarak juk which is milk porridge.