This is a common ‘comfort food’ throughout Asia: nutritious, soothing, satisfying, simple to make and always available. People eat it for breakfast, lunch or dinner, and as a snack. What makes this dish so special are the seasonings and the garnishes, which elevate the porridge to the level of a special treat. Of course, you can determine what those flavours are according to your own whims and preferences. That is what makes it a comfort. Here I use South-east Asian touches because I like them and because they add up to a light but very satisfying dish at any time of the day.
The porridge and chicken can be made in advance. In this case, re-heat them slowly and simply add some more water if the porridge is too thick.
You can buy the Tiensien preserved vegetables in Asian grocery shops and some delicatessens.
Put the chicken and water together in a large pan and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes, skimming occasionally. Add the salt and pepper, cover and simmer for another 15 minutes. Remove the chicken and allow it to cool thoroughly.
Bring the liquid back to the boil and add the rice. Let the mixture come back to the boil and give it several good stirs. Turn the heat down to medium and cover the pan. Let the mixture simmer for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. The rice grains should break down into a smooth porridge.
Heat a wok or large frying-pan over a high heat until it is hot. Add the oil and, when it is very hot and slightly smoking, reduce the heat, add the garlic and shallots and stir-fry them for 1 minute or until they are brown. Remove them from the wok and drain thoroughly on kitchen paper.
In a small pan, boil the eggs in hot water for 10 minutes. Drain and refresh with cold running water. Crack them lightly and shell them. Continue to run them under cold running water until they are cool enough to handle easily. Cut the hard-boiled eggs into quarters and put them in a bowl. Seed and finely slice the chillies and put them into a small dish. Place the ginger in a small dish. Do the same with the soy sauce, salt and pepper.
Rinse the preserved vegetables under cold running water, squeeze them dry and chop them. Put them into a small dish. Do the same with the spring onions and fresh coriander.
When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the meat with your hands and pull it apart into shreds with a fork. Put the chicken in a bowl.
Now uncover the rice and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Ladle the porridge into individual bowls, adding some of the chicken, egg and each of the garnishes to each serving. Serve at once.
© 1996 Ken Hom. All rights reserved.