Comfort Food for Sickies: Multigrain Porridge/Risotto

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I was sick over the weekend and didn’t even have the energy to go out for groceries. Having still the need to feed myself, I rummaged in the fridge and found some hardy vegetables and plenty of various healthfood staples my mum bought from various places – brown rice, buckwheat, barley and regular rice. Not wanting to spend any time at all slaving over the stove, I chucked about a tablespoon or so of each grain into the rice cooker, topped up with plenty of water (at least twice the height of the grain) and set the rice cooker to start its job. I found some dried mushrooms, reconstituted them in some water, and sliced them. I then cut up the carrots into slices and the tomatoes into wedges. I also remembered that I had some organic no-msg vegetable stock powder in the fridge and scattered in a teaspoon or so into the cooking porridge, together with the carrot. It was then time for a nap of about 30 minutes.

When I woke up, the porridge was pretty much cooked and almost dried up to the consistency of thick rice even. I added a bit more water and stirred in the tomatoes. Then I took out an egg from the fridge, washed it thoroughly in warm water. I then set it in a bowl and poured hot water over it, letting it steep for about 5 minutes. By now my risotto was done and I scooped it out into a shallow dish. I then cracked the egg carefully into a hollow of the porridge, let any remaining eggwhite set in the heat of the porridge, then stirred it all together and ate it greedily before going back to bed. Simple, good and delicious.



Quick Eats: Teochew at Havelock

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DC and I ducked into Mu Liang Zai Liang Kee Restaurant for a quick lunch one hot day. We needed something quick and not too heaty, ordering an oyster omelette and stir-fried baby spinach to accompany some porridge. The oyster omelette was perfectly cooked, crisp at the edges and very fluffy on the inside. The oysters were lightly cooked and coated with a very moreish sambal sauce. It was ambrosial with the porridge, I’d eat that in a flash anytime!


The stir-fried baby spinach was expertly done with just the right tenderness and a light touch of wok hei. We asked for less oil to make it a slightly healthier meal and they obliged. It’s not the kind of place where food only tastes good if done with too much oil. The only issue was that the porridge was a bit too mushy, definitely not the clean tasting Teochew style porridge with intact rice grains. This was just run-of-the-mill. Maybe we’ll order rice next time.

Mu Liang Zai Liang Kee Restaurant
719 Havelock Road
Tel: 6272 3182

Memories of Thailand: Khao Tom Kha Moo

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The things I learned from Thai cooking school stayed with me and two years since, I still cook Thai occasionally. Thai food is great mainly because there are quite a few dishes that are pretty healthy and easy to whip up in a jiffy. In this recipe, I’ve taken great liberties by turning tom kah kai, a coconutty chicken soup, into rice porridge. It’s so easy to make.

I’d arrived home after work wanting something easy yet comforting and didn’t have much in the fridge. Cue freezer to the rescue. I pulled out my staples of chopped shallots, kaffir lime leaves, galangal pieces and lemongrass slices. There was also some unidentified meat that upon defrosting, turned out to be pork ribs. Tom kha moo it was then instead of kai. Vegetable-wise, there were mushroom and carrot languishing in the fridge, so it all came together quite nicely. All of it dumped in a rice cooker together with the addition of tom kha paste from a packet and I was good to go for the quick run while the whole thing bubbled together.



3 pork ribs
1 small carrot, sliced
2 shallots, chopped
1 slice galangal
1 kaffir lime leaf, torn up
1 stalk lemongrass, sliced
¼ cup rice
½ tbsp tom kha paste
2 tbsp thick coconut milk
5 mushrooms, sliced
fish sauce, to taste
1 lime


  1. Cover the pork ribs and carrot in water and simmer together with the galangal, shallots, kaffir lime leaf and lemongrass for 30 minutes. Remove the galangal, kaffir lime leaf and lemongrass.
  2. Add the rice, tom kha paste and mushrooms and simmer till the rice is cooked.
  3. Stir in the coconut milk and season to taste with fish sauce.
  4. Serve with a squeeze of lime to taste.

Serves 1.

Seoul Eats: Traditional Hotpot Noodles and Porridge

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One of our contacts brought us to a delightful place in the Seochu area. I have no idea how to get back there as it’s in a back alley in a business district. On first glance, the place looked like a barbecue place as it consisted mainly of long private rooms where people sat in the sunken area around similarly long tables. I was surprised and relieved that we weren’t having barbecue for lunch as I wasn’t looking forward to an entire afternoon of business meetings smelling like charred beef.

First came the typical side dishes. There were a few types of kimchi: cabbage, turnip and one that the locals themselves argued about. It was a spicy salad of Korean shiso leaves, but not fermented, hence the hot debate. There was also oddly enough fried spam and a sort of potato salad with sweet thousand island dressing.


Next, the hotpot was cooked in front of us, with plenty of beef slices, leek, Chinese cabbage and siew bak choy. There were also mushrooms, noodles and plenty of spice. Strangely enough, we didn’t do anything ourselves. Having the pot in front of us was strictly ceremonial as the waitress quickly whisked the pot away when the noodle soup was done and portioned them out into individual servings.


Each serving was huge as it is. It was a hearty and simple noodle dish that hit the right spot of warming and spicy. Deep inside, I wondered if it was a tad too simple for a business meal.


Of course, the Koreans never stint in their hospitality. That bowl of noodles was only part one! There was plenty of stock left in the noodle pot and they mixed in rice, seaweed and other yummies. This was all done away from the table so we had no idea what else went in. This porridge was even more delicious than the noodles and we happily slurped it all up despite the premonition that food coma plus afternoon meetings did not add up well!


Comfort for Sickies

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I was sick and in need of some easy and good comfort food. Even though there wasn’t a great deal in the fridge, thankfully there was  chicken stock and chicken breast in the freezer, and a carrot in the fridge.  This porridge made me feel miles better. It’s so easy to make it probably doesn’t really need a recipe, but he goes anyway.



½ cup rice
2 cups chicken stock
1 carrot, sliced
1 chicken breast
fried shallots


  1. Add the rice and chicken stock to the rice cooker. Slide the carrots atop the rice and sit the chicken breast  above the carrots.
  2. Start the rice cooker. Check back every few minutes. Fish out the chicken breast once the mixture boils and set it aside.
  3. When the chicken has cooled, shred it.
  4. After about 20 minutes, check on the porridge. The carrots should be soft and the rice cooked. If it’s turned into rice, simply add water and stir till you get the right consistency.
  5. Add salt, soy sauce and sesame oil to taste. Top with fried shallots and serve.

Serves 2 sickies.

Quick Eats: Piao Ji Fish Soup

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There was an almighty queue even though the lunch rush was well over at 1.45 pm. I waited about 20 minutes for my food as each bowl was made to order. So this is a slow wait, quick eat kind of dish. My bowl of fish soup with roe cost a whopping $10! It’s hardly a budget meal.

The Teochew-style soup was clear and flavourful, with lots of fried shallot and crumbled dried sole. You pay more for a reason: the fish slices were fresh, thick and plentiful. They went very well with the pickled ginger sticks and tau jio provided on the side. There was so much fish and roe I almost couldn’t finish them. Actually I felt that there was way too much roe for one sitting. Next time I’ll go for the cheaper fish-only version.


It’s a worthwhile eat with generous portions and clean-tasting soup. Maybe my taste buds were having an off day but I somehow didn’t think it was as good as it should have been. My friend liked it a lot but then again she was very hungry. I will return!

Piao Ji Fish Porridge
Amoy Street Hawker Centre

The Many Meanings of Slow Food: Zhen Zhen Porridge

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Zhen Zhen Porridge and Maxwell Hawker Centre are perhaps more famous for the long queues than the great award-winning porridge. I made the fatal mistake of meeting a friend there for lunch at 12.30 pm. Patting myself on the back for arriving early at 12.15, I put down my tissue paper and book bag on two seats in the classic CBD Tissue Paper Chope and went off to queue. As I’d not queued longer than 25 minutes before, I figured it’d only be a 10 minute wait by the time said friend arrived.

Boy was I wrong. When she showed up, I hardly moved from my original spot. Apparently some unmentionables in front had ordered takeaway porridge for their entire building. There was no choice but to wait. And wait. And wait. I finally made my order at 1 pm and collected 10 minutes later. It was almost an hour’s wait! By then my friend had finished her fishball noodles (no queue, not nice) and was eyeing dessert.

The chicken porridge was good as always, smooth and thick with ghosts of rice grains, generous portions of chicken thigh chunks and loads of toppings. They’d obviously spent ages boiling the grains off the rice. There’s plenty of spring onion, fried shallots, dong choi (preserved Tianjin vegetable) and sesame oil. It all comes together in a surprisingly crunchy and textured whole. Very yummy. I also like waiting for the egg to set a bit so I get swirls of soft just-set egg white and rich streaks of runny yolk, then as a prize I sometimes get a bit of yielding solid yolk. Mmm.


I always have the yu-sheng as a side. No other stall I’ve tried makes it this way. Again, the theme is generous servings and toppings. I can barely finish the small portion. It’s made of slices of raw fish topped with ginger matchsticks, spring onion, fried shallots, toasted black and white sesame and sesame oil. Top it all off with a sprinkling of lime juice and some cut red chilli and the flavour combination is phenomenal. It’s almost the entire reason why I keep coming back for more.


$4.50 for a chicken porridge with egg and a small yu-sheng. Go early or on an especially hot day where there’s less of a queue. Don’t dither with your order because the lady can be quite curt. Be brave!

Self-Discipline at Amoy Street Hawker Centre

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A friend came back on holiday and we went to Amoy Street Hawker Centre to satisfy her cravings for Teochew porridge and kway chap. We made it there just before the lunch crowd, so it wasn’t too bad finding seats. To our amusement, the practice of using tissue paper to chope seats is still going strong.


Our first stop was at Teo Heng Teochew Porridge (1st floor). It’s quite different from other Teochew porridge stalls which are also chap chye beng stalls in disguise. The choice here is limited to pork and innards, braised duck, squid, fishball products and tofu products. We didn’t see any steamed fish nor stir-fried dishes. Seems like the only vegetable you can get is giam chye.

That certainly didn’t faze us because what my friend really wanted was her giam chye fix. We ordered braised duck, stuffed tau pok, tau kwa and of course giam chye.


Each bit of the dish was good. The classic Teochew braised duck dipped in chilli vinegar was as it should be, slightly chewy and taking in the flavour of the soya sauce it was cooked in. The stuffed tau pok had a satisfying mix of textures: crisp cucumber shreds, firm bits of pork and that unique spongy-crisp feel of tau pok. The best of the lot were the giam chye and tau kwa. The tau kwa was creamy and soft while the giam chye was stewed till just right. It was salty, slightly sweet and slightly tangy, almost melting into the porridge. Needless to say, the friend was very satisfied. We spent slightly over $8 for the stuff in the picture and two bowls of porridge.


We moved on to Ah Hing Kway Chap upstairs where we ordered a single portion (about $4) to share: small intestine, tau kwa again and of course giam chye. You can tell that we aren’t big eaters at all. We both liked the soft, slippery kway. The small intestine was pretty decent, though not the best I’ve had. It was a tad rubbery from cooking too long in the hot soy broth. I liked the tau kwa, though it came in second to Teo Heng’s far superior version. My friend didn’t like it, she found it too mushy. The most disappointing part was the giam chye. It was FAIL in so many ways, not cooked till soft, too sour, too sweet. In a word, FAIL.


By then we only had room for teh halia at Rafee’s Corner. This is one of the best teh halias I’ve ever had. There’s enough ginger to give a throat-tingling kick, the tea is strong enough, it’s just the right sweetness, just the right amount of condensed was added. If there’s any detested evaporated milk in there, I can’t tell. And the best part is that they tarik it for you at no extra charge. 80 cents a cup in the CBD is just an amazing price.


Because of our great restraint at lunch, I got hungry early in the evening. Luckily I had the foresight to takeaway some bak chang from Hoo Kee on Level 1. I’ve seen rave reviews of it on both Makansutra and ieatishootipost. After steaming to reheat, this pretty sight beckoned.


It was good! I enjoyed it so much that I forgot about adding the accompanying chilli sauce. The glutinous rice was firm, the pork tender, the chestnuts sweet and floury and the egg yolk perfectly crumbly and fragrant.

I’m not a bak chang fan. I used to hate having to eat it for breakfast when the season came round, but this I’ll willingly have any time of the day! The only complaint I have is that it’s the most expensive bak chang ever. This one with salted egg and chestnut costs $2.80. Madness considering that the same amount could get you a decent bowl of noodles.