It’s amazing how time flies so fast. The telltale sign of our walnut tree going “bald” is probably the best picture heralding the advance of winter.
With temperatures plummeting to single digit of late, one can only dream for something comfortably warm.
My warm thoughts then journeyed back to my warm and humble beginning…
Hmmm….kai chook (chicken congee), bak moi (meat rice porridge), hu moi (fish rice porridge) or just moi (rice porridge or congee or rice gruel).
Congee (or kanji), rice porridge, gruel, bubur, moi, chook (or jook): It’s called by many names, but I fondly remembered calling it, simply, porridge or moi. However, “porridge”, to a non Asian person, is equivalent to oatmeal. In Flanders, they called this “havermoutpap”. Totally different, I’m afraid 🙂
Anyway, let’s stick to the version that I knew and know best 😉
Hassle free rice porridge
Cooking rice porridge is really easy. I cooked mine in an electric rice cooker, using the “porridge” function button. Just one measuring cup of uncooked rice and copious water and “click”; the porridge was ready in about 20 minutes. You will be surprise to see the rice porridge “swell” in volume. Add in more water (at this stage, use cooked water or drinking water from the bottle) until you have reached the consistency you desire. I prefer my rice porridge a little bit runny, not too thick.
Believe it or not, the amount of rice porridge you see here lasted me for 3 days! Only one measuring cup of rice; no wonder they used to call this meal a “poor man’s meal” or “peasant’s meal”. For me it was a meal fit for a queen! Yup, that’s right. I was feasting on rice porridge for THREE CONSECUTIVE DAYS! Holy Moly! 😀
Day 1: The ‘wholly’ Trinity
By the way, I have not had rice porridge in years, hence, the thought and subsequently, the action of having it, was a sheer delight. I was feeling nostalgic and immediately served three tasty side dishes to go with the bland rice porridge.
I was over the moon when I saw “homemade salted fish” sold in a mini Asian store I frequent during my lunch break one work week. The salted fish (kiam hu) was prepared by the “lady of the house’ herself, a Thai. I will talk about her in a coming post. Some of you who are reading this post, will know who I am referring to, so stay tuned 😉
I grabbed the plastic platter with the fried salted fish from the refrigerator and paid a rather hefty 5 Euro for it. If you’re craving for something, forget the numbers, for once. It was a small piece of half a fish but delectably prepared with sautéed trimmings of galangal, lemongrass, shallots, and dried shrimps and garnished with fresh whole bird’s eye chilies and lemon wedge. YUM!
I could do that myself, but my guys at home would be screaming their heads off with the fishy stench lingering forever in the house. LOL!
Salted egg (kiam n’ng) or century egg (pi tan) would go pretty well with my rice porridge, but these were not available – ready made – at the time, hence, I ended up making omelette. It was a quick, tasty and rustic looking omelette which I added chopped spring onions, fresh coriander, tomatoes, pickled shredded cabbage (chai por), salt and pepper to taste.
A good bowl of rice porridge is not complete without some salted mustard green (kiam chai). I prefer the ones I used to have when I was in Kuching. Anyway, to complete my ‘wholly’ Trinity, I got by with a can of pickled cabbage. The taste of the canned kiam chai was not what I was used to savour. It was just okay.
Et voilá! My Day 1 rice porridge feast made in heaven! It was simply divine!
Day 2: Deuce!
With still a lot of leftover porridge in my electric rice cooker, I cooled it down and scooped it into a clean glass dish and refrigerated it.
A part of the leftover became my Day 2 porridge feast.
Day 1 was a mild start. I wanted something different the second time around; something with flavours and textures.
I was really excited when I saw a familiar looking vegetable sold at a local Asian store somewhere in Leuven. Although it was not THAT fresh looking, it was still okay. I must have that, I thought, because I knew what I was going to do with it.
That’s correct! The four-angled bean or winged bean or goa bean or kacang botol. Whatever you called it, that’s one of my favourite beans!
Again my nostalgic palate got the better of me. What better way than to stir fry the four-angled beans in some shrimp paste! Yup, “kacang botol tumis belacan”! It was down memory lane for me…
By the way, I cheated a little bit by using the Mae Pranom brand of shrimp flavour crushed chilli, a tiny bit of the belacan powder, shallots, minced garlic, shredded kaffir lime leaves, minced coriander root, salt and pepper.
Next, I wanted something crunchy. The crispy baby clams and anchovies conjured up the best trick ever.
What a tied score between the stir-fried spicy four-angled beans and crispy clams and anchovies. Deuce!
It was scrumptious!
Day 3: All-in-one
From three to two to all-in-one; this was my sons’ favourite version 😉
The once bland rice porridge was face lifted to the highest degree. Note that this version requires a pretty runny texture to the porridge. I added more water and gently heated it up over low to medium heat.
I made fresh meatballs, seasoned with some chopped shallots, garlic, salt, white pepper, chopped fresh coriander and carrots.
Then I dressed the porridge up with a splash of sesame oil, chicken stock, white pepper, Shaoxing rice wine, sliced carrots, crushed ginger, bruised lemongrass, torn kaffir lime leaves, and just before serving, I added some spinach leaves.
What a SIN!
Simple Irresistible Nifty!
Scrumptious Incredible Nostalgic!
By the way, when I documented this post, the news of the US Presidential election was released. Barack Obama won.
Congratulations and good luck, Mr President!
The most captivating of all pictures of both the President and the First Lady made headlines in one of the local Belgian newspapers that morning.
Clean, simple, straightforward – a bit like my porridge feast 😀
Four more years….
But for now, eat well, stay well and take care.
See you soon!