p Picks and Pecks: recipe: peanut porridge

Saturday, March 30, 2013

recipe: peanut porridge

When I was a kid, I never liked the idea of eating porridge. Porridge was always associated with being sick - when I had a fever, my mom or grandma would make a bowl of plain porridge, which I then had to choke down with some fish, or a fried egg.

But strangely, in the last few years, porridge has become sort of a comfort food for me. Especially when it comes chock-ful of goodies like you tiao or fried intestines. When I went to Shanghai, I had a bowl of porridge everyday for breakfast, much to my own surprise!

The thing is, porridge isn't very hard to make. Just rice, boiled with water till it softens. I like this peanut porridge, which is a little more rare - I think its just because it takes time for the dried peanuts to shed their skins. Dried peanuts can be found at most Chinese dry goods stores - be sure to ask for the type suitable for porridge (as opposed to the ones you might fry up for nasi lemak) as these are typically larger. You might want to leave the skins on, but I find the idea of loose skins in the porridge quite unappealing - almost as if the peanuts had sloughed their skins!

The first thing I do is to give the peanuts a quick wash and then soak them in water so that the skin softens, while I prepare the stock for the porridge.

To flavor the porridge, I use some dried oysters and cuttlefish. I rinse these first, before tossing them into a dry pot placed over low heat to lightly sear them in a little bit of oil.

If you want - and this is optional - you can even add in some chicken bones (in this case I just used a chicken breast) in as well. Once the oysters and cuttlefish have taken on some color, I just add hot water to the pot, and add the chicken.

While the stock  simmers, I rub the soaked peanuts (which have been in water for at least 30 minutes) between my palms to loosen the skins - they tend to float to the surface and can be skimmed off. You might need to change the water a few times as it can get cloudy. The result is on the right - off-white peanuts.

In the meantime, the broth will have gotten cloudy from all the ingredients - this is the point to add your washed, drained rice and peanuts to it and leave it on a slow simmer. Be sure to watch your porridge as the starch from the rice creates bubbles which can gradually rise and spill out the sides of your pot if you don't keep an eye on it. Its a myth that a watched pot never boils (over)!

I also added some sliced liver to my porridge. You can get a piece of it from your butcher, and just slice it thinly. Yes, it can look quite gory and that's why I blanched the slices quickly in boiling water before adding them to the porridge just before serving. This is to avoid any of the bloodiness muddy-ing the color of the porridge.

The porridge is ready to serve once the rice has broken down and the peanuts have lost their crispness and just have a bit of bite to them - sort of an al dente texture. It took me about two hours at a low simmer before my porridge was ready - but this will vary depending on the amount of water you add, and the texture that you want your rice to achieve. I still like to serve my porridge with you tiao and some lam yue or fermented beancurd - this adds a funky saltiness to the porridge and avoids having to add any soy sauce to it.