This is one of the classic recipes that my Singaporean roommate, Dina, and I developed together in Montreal, inspired by childhood memories of fish porridge and drawing from our limited knowledge of what actually went into it.
As a child, I grew up eating Alexander Road’s famous raw fish porridge every Saturday morning. For the uninitiated, raw fish porridge consists of savoury mouth-melting fish that dissolves into your mouth, mixed with delicious creamy congee, freshly cut ginger and the spicy tang of chilli; a combination that can only be described as apotheosis-tic. When my husband and I returned to that place last year, the place had shut down after decades because of the raw fish ban in Singapore. We were very sad. However, it’s with some consolation that I present to you my take on the classic Teochew Fish porridge, with a Japanese, Cantonese and Western twist.
This is a dish that consists of many flavours, textures and colours. Fried scallions and green onions delivers a delightful crunch both crisp and crunchy; the fish melts in your mouth, mixed in with silky congee and the occasional starchy consistency of the potato. The century egg- a Cantonese inspiration- gives a strong flavour that balances out the milder soupy textures. All combined, this is definitely one of my favourite comfort recipes.
In terms of ingredients, I prefer to use Japanese rice because it makes for a smoother porridge. If you use other types of rice, it’s recommended that you blend it in the blender but I did not own a blender when this recipe was developed, and I think it turns out just fine. As for fish, freshness is not as important as how well the fish absorbs flavour. Frozen fish actually delivers a better texture for the porridge. I use frozen basa (tilapia’s softness is lost in this dish and cod/ sole do not absorb flavours as well as basa) marinated in ginger, oyster sauce, white pepper, a bit of sesame oil and soy sauce. I also buy century eggs that are already cooked, so not the ones coated in dirt but the ones pre-packed in boxes. Fried scallions are a must- do not skip it!
Ingredients (3 servings)
Marinade for fish:
- Dash of oyster sauce, soy sauce and sesame oil;
- 2 inches of chopped fresh ginger
- Lots of white pepper
- 3/4 cup Japanese/ short-grain calrose rice
- Chicken bouillon cube
- 1 small potato cut into small wedges
- Fried scallions/onions
- 1 century egg (They’re good in other things too although a bit strong to eat by themselves. People like to put it into bland things or even into steamed egg custard because it adds that needed punch)
- Green onions, finely chopped
- Liberal amounts of white pepper!
Prep (night before):
- Marinate frozen fish* with oyster sauce, soy sauce, lots of white pepper, chopped ginger, and a dash of sesame oil
- Boil Japanese rice in a lot of water > approximately 3x amount of water to rice to begin with. Add water halfway through if you see it becomes too dry; it should be mushy by the end.
- Add about one chicken bouillon block to the soup directly.
- Cut a potato into little cubes (I usually cut them into triangles so they absorb flavour better) and add it into the pot as rice is simmering.
- Turn the heat to about medium when it’s boiling and occasionally stir; let cook for about 20 minutes then turn to lowest heat; there should be some liquid but add more liquid if it’s not mushy enough. You want to make sure that there is a little bit of liquid so the rice doesn’t burn at the bottom.
- Once porridge is at right consistency, add the fish and turn off heat and put on lid. Let the fish cook in the porridge by itself; if it overcooks, it may lose it’s elasticity and become rubbery.
**A trick I learned growing up- they used to serve raw fish and we’d just cook it in the porridge which made for perfect fish!**
- Cut a century egg and add half a century egg per bowl, garnish with green onions and fried onions.
- Put lots of white pepper and lots of fried onions!