All About Porridge (aka congee, polenta, shugo, okayu, uji, nasi lemak, dalia, chao bo, lugaw, mush, farina, etc)
I've been trying to perfect a oatmeal congee over the past few weeks. In the process learned a lot about the different types of porridge.
How to define porridge? I think this site says it best ...
"Just about any grain makes a good porridge. The key is to cook them longer than you would were you to serve the same grain for dinner, and in more water"
Wiki has a pretty good list of porridge across different cultures, using different grains. I might disupte some of them. I think atole is more of a corn gruel rather than porridge.
Even better is this article from the SF Chronicle which has a few recipes at the end.
Morning comfort / From Irish oatmeal to Chinese congee to Mexican champurrado every cuisine offers steaming bowls of cereal to stave off winter's chill
The writer says " just about every culture around the world has its own version of porridge and many are far from bland. They're perked up with fiery chiles pungent fish sauce sweet fruit preserves; enriched with coconut milk chocolate or cream; or bathed in broths of saffron or ginger."
There was a good topic on Chowhound about three years ago that focused on Asian porridge
jook (congee), okayu, porridge, gruel
I finally perfected my oatmeal congee.
I suppose I could call it porridge, but these days that usually means a sweet breakfast dish, especially when using oats. Also, I was going more for the texture and flavor of rice congee. I think, and I might be wrong, that oats have a little more nutritional value that rice.
Anyway, what is your favorite type of porridge?
I love chao...Vietnamese rice porridge. As a child I had it many times with chicken or duck. The poultry fat would tint it yellow. Yum. A few years ago I discovered that chao do bien, or seafood chao, was also good. I hadn't liked it before because somehow with seafood it was bland. But I discovered how to make it taste rich. Very, very delicious. I still have chao when I am sick as my chicken soup subsitute.
I love some Indian type porridges...upma, semolina porridge...I have had it various ways, even with buttermilk instead of water as the liquid.
Also khichri, rice and lentils boiled together till soft, this can be bland and mushy for a tummy ache food, or made firmer almost like a wet lentil pullao, and it can also be seasoned with yummy things like caramelized onions, fried vegetables, or just seasoned with a light tempering.
I love seasoned North Americn style oatmeal with cinnamon, sugar, and a touch of maple syrup plus lots of butter. I haven't had that in a long time, though. Maybe I will now.
Haleem is one of the most perfect foods I can imagine. Wheat and lamb are cooked together with spices until their flavor and texture mingle in one soft union. It can be a very rich dish when laden with ghee, and was one of my favorite wintertime dishes growing up.
Nowadays I prefer simpler porridges. Arroz caldo is absolutely restorative when the rice is cooked such that is permeated with the fragrance of ginger and lemons and crunchy fried garlic acts as a foil to soft shredded chicken. Or even a bowl of oatmeal with milk and sugar can be the perfect start to a cold day.
Grits! Cheese grits topped with poached eggs is a favorite weekend breakfast. Shrimp and grits is probably in my top ten favorite foods of all time. Creamy grits with fried apples is a tasty dessert and a filling breakfast. I didn't grow up with grits, but when I moved to the South several years ago I quickly fell in love. Stone-ground grits are much more flavorful but quick-cooking grits are a must to have on hand for days when you don't have an hour to simmer the "real" kind.
WRT oats, I seem to recall that the more processed the oats are the less nutritional value they have, but steel-cut oats have plenty of fiber and definitely count as a "whole grain." White rice can't even say that much.
Replying to my own post, okay: I forgot to mention that I like to add an umeboshi plum to the rice as its cooking, then mix it into the tori zosui. The flesh falls off the pit and shreds up with some stirring. Pickled plum is also good with ochazuke, another porridge type dish made with green tea and dashi. If you don't have chicken, you can also make sake zosui, or salmon porridge, another fave, good with crispy skin or kizame (shredded) nori garnish.