Here’s a hot tip from the cruise ship lido deck. While your fellow passengers wait in the slow-moving line at the breakfast buffet omelet station or ponder the panorama of pastries, head for the steaming pots of oatmeal and grits. Look for a third pot with a tent card reading “Oriental Porridge” or congee.
This Asian staple is a thick white gruel of cooked rice with suspended chunks of chicken. It is served with hard-cooked egg wedges, canned French fried onions, and fresh green onion slices to sprinkle over the top. (Ignore the raisins and brown sugar, they’re for the oatmeal.)
We discovered oriental porridge during a Holland America Alaskan feeding frenzy through Glacier Bay a few years ago. Ironically, this simple Asian comfort food was undeniably the best souvenir of the trip. Now we make our own style of Lido Deck Oriental Porridge all the time, for any meal. The basic porridge is just soupy rice in broth. Like on the lido deck it can simmer for hours, at home, on the stove or in the slow cooker.
Our everyday home version is anchored with already-cooked brown rice and pantry chicken broth. We regularly make batches of brown rice to reheat for all kinds of meals like fried rice, stir fry, soup, or porridge. That way you can quickly make only as many servings as you need. The fun part is expanding the porridge with whatever looks good in the fridge like a variety of cooked vegetables, meats, and condiments. We tend to have plenty of leftover chicken and bacon since R.B. always cooks extra, but other meats (or no meat at all) are great, too. If you don’t keep canned fried onions on hand, sauté onion slices while heating the rice and broth. The dish is different every time, always a hit with kids, and as good as any chicken soup when comfort is the cure.
- Basic porridge:
- 3 cups cooked white or brown rice
- 4 cups chicken broth (or use vegetable or miso broth)
- Optional flavorings include a stalk of lemongrass, a chunk of fresh ginger
- Toppings and stir-ins:
- Cooked chicken, fish, beef, pork, sausages, crumbled bacon and tofu; hard-cooked egg wedges, fried egg strips, sliced green onions, sautéed onions, chopped fresh cilantro, chopped hot peppers; cooked green peas, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and greens; fresh bean sprouts, chopped fresh snow peas, a squeeze of fresh lime juice, hot sauce, and fish sauce.
Simmer the rice and broth in a large saucepan over medium heat until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Stir in meat and/or vegetables and heat through. Serve in bowls with your choice of toppings. Makes four servings.