Monday, 15 April 2019

#ewew cooks 3 Types of Porridge (with Chicken, Pork or Fish)

Since my mother-in-law's frequent hospitalisation from late last year till now (and subsequent recuperation), I've learned (or more liked honed my skills) to make porridge....and have gotten better at it over time.

If I have to make them fast and often, I had to cook simpler versions of it that still yields the same good taste, certainly not this 10-ingredient porridge (for which I've no such luxury of time).  And along the way, I realised that the taste could be improved by just making some minor adjustments to a few key ingredients. Here are the three types of porridge I  frequently make with just three key ingredients in each rendition.

Let's start with chicken porridge.  Everyone knows how to make this and would usually make it by boiling chicken bones (or chicken parts) together with the porridge.  I do that too but have since changed a key ingredient...and that's by using choy yin kai (kampong chicken) bones instead as it tastes better than the usual broiler chicken.

For the shredded chicken, boil the chicken tenders for just 5 minutes...that's all it takes (do not overcook the chicken by boiling the heck out of it).

Take it out to cool before shredding (I shred it with my fingers).

The other key ingredient is to include some form of sweet potato which brings sweetness to the porridge. Here, I'm using purple sweet potatoes.  When your porridge is about 10 minutes from being done, that's the time to add in the sweet potatoes as it takes only about 10 minutes to soften.  I season my congee with a combination of salt, light soy and white pepper + a little chicken powder too for more flavour (this is optional, of course).

Discard the chicken bones and put in the shredded chicken.  Finally, the addition of condiments (like finely sliced ginger and chopped spring onions in the last minute just before your porridge is ready) should not be overlooked.  They just need to be warmed through and mixed in with the porridge.

I feel the inclusion of ginger lifts up the flavours of the porridge with its freshness.  But if you don't like ginger (like my mother-in-law which I only found out of late when I noticed her fishing out the shredded ginger from her bowl of porridge), substitute by putting thick slices of ginger to flavour the porridge and take them out when they've done their job.

For the pork porridge, I would usually use minced pork only but was recently taught (by a pork vendor) to use yuk ngan to flavour the congee instead.

This cut of pork, according to him, lends more sweetness to the broth but the meat has to be discarded as it cannot be eaten (after cooking with the congee) as it'll be very tough.  So, I tried that and found the flavour of the porridge much improved.

Again, sweet potatoes is a must (here I chose to use yellow sweet potatoes).  I actually introduced this ingredient into my porridge when I wanted to include some form of vegetable for my mother-in-law to have in her diet.  I then realised that the inclusion of sweet potatoes brought the congee even more flavour and sweetness.

Just remember to skim off the impurities that float to the top when boiling the porridge with chicken bones or pork.  There isn't as much scum if lean pork is used (than chicken bones) though.  Discard the nyuk ngan pieces after they've done their job of flavouring the congee.

Add in the minced pork (that has been seasoned with light soy and white pepper) and sweet potatoes 10 minutes before your porridge is ready.  I also discovered that substituting chopped spring onions with chopped yin sai or Chinese coriander (which is unorthodox) made the porridge even more fragrant...but only if you like the taste of yin sai as I know some people don't.  Those who don't can stick with spring onions but those who do, I urge you to make this change.

We shouldn't disregard the importance of drizzling some garlic oil and crispy fried garlic (or shallot oil and fried shallots) into the porridge to amp up flavours even further (+ a little on top just before serving won't hurt either).

Finally, for the fish porridge, I used to cook it with a piece of fish steak directly with the congee before taking it out to flake.  Although this is still an accepted way of making fish porridge, it only works if you bought yourself a very fresh piece of fish otherwise the congee will taste somewhat fishy.

Unfortunately, we are not always that lucky to get really fresh fish, so there was one time when I experimented with frying the fish first before flaking it.  If you intend to fry the fish first, you can use a cheaper fish like kau yee (Spanish mackerel).  And if you're using a whole fish (like kau yee), you can fry the bones and off-cuts (like the head, tail & fins) first as well before adding that to flavour the porridge base.

Sek pan (grouper) or ma yau (threadfin) will be better choices if you intend to boil it with the porridge (but they also taste great fried).  You can use any other fish to your liking really (but just make sure you choose the ones without too many bones and where removing the flesh will be a cinch).

Don't forget to add sweet potatoes to your porridge 10 minutes from time (I went with orange sweet potatoes this time).  Besides fish being difficult to identify from one type to another, the other that is difficult to differentiate (for me) are sweet potatoes.

See what I mean! :P  They look almost identical from the colour of the skin.  Can you tell them apart? Starting from the left, these are purple, orange and yellow potatoes.  If not for the identification tags (at supermarkets) that state the colour of the sweet potatoes, I would have to ask the vendor at the market as they can be quite difficult to differentiate (with same coloured skins yielding different coloured flesh inside).  Take for example a Japanese sweet potato, the skin is purple but the flesh is yellow. ;P

I added back the flaked fish and chopped Chinese coriander to the congee in the last minute.  I found that the pre-fried fish tastes more fragrant in the porridge without any of that fishy smell.

You can also use a combination of sweet potatoes if you like.  There are many types of sweet potatoes in the market, different ones from different areas/countries may taste different.  Depending on the type you buy, don't be alarmed if your porridge turns out purplish (that happens if you've gotten yourself a Japanese purple sweet potato)! :O

Besides sweet potatoes, the use of sweetcorn, as its name suggests, adds sweetness to the porridge as well. Sweetcorn takes a good half hour to soften (unlike sweet potatoes), so put it in earlier in your congee making process.

So, through some experimenting with a few minor changes to some key ingredients, I was able to improve the taste of my porridge.  To recap:

Step 1 - Use the right meat to extract the flavour for your porridge base (from choi yin kai bones to pork nyuk ngan to frying the fish and fish bones first).

Step 2 - Include some kind of sweet potatoes (of any colour, be it yellow, orange or purple) or sweetcorn as it lends further sweetness to the congee. 

Step 3 - Don't forget (or underestimate) the importance of condiments (like spring onion, yin sai, fried garlic & shallots) to amp up flavours even more.

To congee lovers out there, try experimenting with these changes to see if it makes a difference in your congee...and hopefully it'll transform your porridge by making it better as it did mine! ;)  It takes about 45 minutes to an hour to boil about 1/2 cup of rice that yields 3 - 4 bowls of porridge.  It's worth the effort and it's one of my one-pot wonders.  I love to eat congee as it's something that's light and easy to digest, not to mention healthy too.


  1. Hip Hip Hooray! I am a big porridge fan. My wife knows the insane me that could eat any porridge everyday. It must be my teochew blood that makes this clan hardcore porridge lovers.

    I am studying your cooking tips closely and the added sweet potatoes!! How clever of you to use 3 different types of sweet potatoes. No wonder your mil recovered swiftly due to your love and nutritious cooking!

    I often had to spend money to dine at the 'Porridge Time' outlet and pay a bomb for all the added extras like fried intestines, yiu tiao, nuts and salted eggs. I love to eat them with lots of 'liu' inside that makes me a happy boy! Again, I would cherish and miss my mother for her excellent porridge.

    Thank you for sharing this.

    1. You're most welcome. Yes, nothing beats our mom's porridge.

      Oh, the porridge at Porridge Time are those claypot porridge which come with one type of "liew". Since you're a Teochew, I believe you would love Teochew porridge (I love it, by the way) which comes with an array of dishes that can be eaten with plain porridge. For that, I'd recommend Sun Fatt Kee in Seapark. You can read it here:
      Enjoy! Hope you like it :)

  2. This is a very useful post for me because my partner loves porridge! He is always harping about his (delicious) pork porridge which he says must include thin strips of ginger (like what you said) to give it oomph! I am quite hopeless with porridge because mine always turns out too thick and I have to keep adding water (which dilutes the flavor). For 1/2 cup of rice, how much water/stock do you use? I could use that as a guide as I'd like to try cooking porridge like yours (which looks delicious) and give my partner a surprise hee..hee...

    1. Oh, if your partner loves porridge, then by all means give him a lovely surprise...and I hope yours turn out a success so that you can harp on how good your pork porridge is too.

      For 1/2 cup rice (I use western cup measurement but if you use the plastic cup that comes with the rice cooker, it's probably about 3/4 cup).
      Porridge is something you can't cook relying on a recipe. That's why it's difficult to say how much water to use coz it really depends on the temperature you use to cook it (the higher the temp, the faster the porridge will dry, the more liquid you need to use). I have to say porridge isn't the easiest thing to cook (that's why my sisters-in-law say they can't do it well) but all you need is practice and once you get the hang of it, then it's easy-peasy.

      So, as a rough guideline, I use 1 ltr + 1 rice bowl (+ about 100ml) of water for about 1/2 cup of rice. Put in the whole 1 ltr of water with the rice. Cook on high (200) and bring to boiling point. Reduce the heat to medium-med low (90 - 120) and boil for 25 - 30 mins (stir occasionally). Reduce to med-low (90) for the next 15 - 20 mins (do not walk away at this point and stir more frequently). This is the 'window' to add the sweet potatoes, minced pork and the extra 1 bowl of water (a little at a time). It's ok to add more water (it won't dilute the flavour as the stock had been absorbed by the rice grains). It has to be done if the porridge gets too thick to manage as you're trying to achieve the right consistency. Make sure no porridge is stuck at the bottom of the pan as this will dry out the porridge even more. I use a metal spoon to scrape the bottom if this happens. Don't forget the aromatics at the end.

      Hope this helps...and doesn't sound too intimidating. Best of luck! I know you can nail it (and will be waiting for hear about your success)...hehe! ;)

    2. Oh! Thanks for the detailed guide! I will definitely give it a go one of the weekends :)

    3. You're most welcome...good luck :)

  3. I'll have the one with sweet potato please. ;-)

    1. Which one would that be? All three have sweet potatoes...haha! ;D

    2. Oh goodness, they do. The one with the orange sweet potatoes!

  4. if i finally start cooking at home someday, i'm going to start trying some of your recipes. this porridge would certainly hit the spot for me, and i definitely like all the practical tips you've inserted to ensure success and satisfaction! :D

    1. I'd love to see you cook someday, hehe...and I'm truly honoured that you'd want to cook some of my recipes! ^.^ Sometimes, I think my explanations are too detailed and lengthy (more towards a step-by-step guide) but I'd want the dishes to turn out successfully, even for those who don't cook (or hardly cooks), and I hope people appreciate that. ^_~

  5. I always cook my porridge with plain water only, that's why my porridge tastes bland and need to be flavoured by soy sauce, sesame oit or pepper when served :P

    1. Cooked with water only? Then that's plain porridge, must eat with dishes like Teochew porridge-lah! ^_*

  6. My kids grew up eating porridge, these look absolutely comforting and delicious.

    1. If your kids like to eat porridge, that's the best...simple and nutritious :)

  7. Looks so wholesome! I want some.

    1. Can, can...cook yourself lah since I already provided you a very detailed description...wakakakaka! ;D


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