Fisherfolk porridge is my favorite due to its enticing blend of aroma and taste enriched by the flavors of a variety of fresh seasonal seafood. Fish, crabs, prawns, oysters, mussels, scallops and other marine animals add interesting contrasting variety of textures to the smoothness of the porridge. A bouquet of aroma from fried shallots, ginger, pepper and fresh cilantro can be adjusted to either enhanced the aroma of seafood or mask it to suit personal preference.
This is a delicious traditional rice porridge enjoyed by the common folk in China, especially those living along coastal areas. Fishermen can just pop whatever they have caught that day into a pot of water and toss in a handful of rice for a quick meal after their tiring work. Restaurants have improved on the procedure of the fisherfolk’s simple meal. We wouldn’t want to fish shells out of the porridge while eating, would we?
• A variety of seafood such as fresh sliced fish meat, shellfish, prawn, squid, crab etc.
• 1 part rice (washed and soak for several hours)
• 5 to 8 parts water to make stock
• Salt to taste
• Fried shallot slices
• Green onion leaves (cut into short lengths)
• Grated fresh young ginger root
• Cilantro (chopped)
• Pepper powder
• Eggs (1 per bowl of porridge)
• Youtiao (cut into rings)
1. Marinate sliced fish flesh with soya sauce, sugar and sesame oil.
2. To make stock, add shellfish into a pot of boiling water. When shells open, remove from water and transfer into a bowl. (If you are using crab, lobster or other marine shellfish that require longer cooking time, boil them a while before adding in the quicker cooking shellfish).
3. Add rice into boiling stock and turn down heat to simmer for at least 40 minutes. (The longer you boil, the smoother the porridge.)
4. While porridge is boiling, remove meat from shellfish and crab. Discard shells.
5. Add sliced fish, squid and other quick cooking uncooked seafood into boiling hot porridge to cook just before serving. Add salt to taste.
6. Serve porridge in bowls individually. Spoon some shellfish meat into each bowl and sprinkle garnishing on top.
Some people like to crack an egg into the porridge bowl before ladling in piping hot porridge to provide more smoothness. Let the heat cook the egg for several minutes before mixing the contents. If you prefer the egg(s) to be more well-done, add the egg(s) into the porridge, mix and turn off heat.
Youtiao (translated as oil stick) is a deep-fried pastry that is like a pair of sticks with a crispy exterior and soft, chewy interior. It adds an interesting, contrasting texture to porridge. In Southern China, the Cantonese people changed its name to ‘You Char Quai’ (oil fried Quai). There is an interesting story on the name change by the Southerners.
The story of You Char Quai
The Jurchen attacked China during the Sung Dynasty. The Royal family fled south and set up the Southern Sung dynasty after the Jurchen invaded the northern part of the country. General Yue Fei, a brilliant war strategist, led a successful military campaign that was poised to recapture the Northern Sung former capital when corrupt court officials headed by the traitorous Chancellor of the Song dynasty, Chun Quai (Qin Hui in Mandarin) advised the emperor to recall Yue to the capital. Chun Quai and his wife masterminded Yue’s death in the capital. The ordinary people hated the traitorous couple so much that they wanted to kill and eat them up. Thenceforth they used Youtiao to represent Yue’s murderers and renamed it ‘You Char Quai. May their traitorous souls feel the pain each time someone chew on You Char Quai.
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