Thursday, May 07, 2009

Bubur Ikan Sudirman (Fish porridge a la Sudirman)

Bubur ikan Sudirman

Winter has precipitated over the Southern hemisphere. It's cold, it's dry and the the sound that of the wind blowing through the thin opening of the window into my kitchen moans for something to soothe and bring home the warmth. In my family, there's no comfort food like porridge.

Essential sauce: sliced chilli in fish sauce

By blood, I belong to a Chinese subgroup called Chaozhou (潮州) who originated from Southern China, but is now widely spread out into South East Asia. The Chaozhou cuisine is best known for its porridge and what sets Chaozhou porridge apart from Cantonese style rice porridge, for instance, is that it is not cooked in broth so that it's plain as rice and is served with a number of side dishes like pickled mustard leaves, preserved tofu, meats, fishes and vegetables.

The base of the porridge: rice, dong-cai (冬菜) and sliced spring onions

Another type of porridge that I absolutely love are found in night stalls. The vendors set up their 'restaurants from about 6 or 7 in the evening and the restaurants consist of simple tables that wobble because they are set on broken asphalt, and plastic chairs. On the table there would be white pepper, chili and fish sauces in recycled Fanta or Coca-cola bottles and pepper. My favourite could be found on Jalan Sudirman.

Building the porridge: Fish, fried garlic and shallots

I'm making my own version of this fish porridge and I think the recipe is especially useful if you, like me, have a lot of left over rice and rice that sticks to the side of the rice cooker and become dry and inedible. All you need to do is soak it overnight then drain the water off as much as possible. The result is a re-plumped rice and it is just as good as freshly cooked rice for the making of this fish porridge.

Final product: tadah!

To make my fish porridge a la Sudirman you will need:
  • 1 fish fillet (I used flake fillet)
  • rice
  • Fish broth (is preferable, but I used chicken broth)
  • a handful of fresh greens
  • 1 spring onions
  • 1 teaspoon of dong cai (冬菜)
  • 1 teaspoon of fried garlic
  • 1 teaspoon of fried shallots
  • 1 tablespoon of fish sauce
  • 1 bird eye chilli
  • white pepper
The star of the dish is of course the fish so once you have that poached in the broth, all there is left to do is assembly. First, get the broth boiling and prepare everything else like slicing the fish, chilli and spring onions. Spoon a portion of rice into a bowl and top with dong cai (冬菜) and spring onions. Once the broth is boiling, poached the fish for a few minutes then pick them out and arrange on top of the rice. Add a handful of the green vegetable and the garlic and shallots. Pour in the broth, season with white pepper and serve with chilli in fish sauce.

For me, all the ingredients that I listed here are essential because leaving out any of them would break the dish. Most of them you could find in the supermarket except for dong cai (冬菜) which you will find in Chinese grocer. I have added a picture link for those not familiar with this ingredient. Hopefully it will help you identify the item in the shops. As for the white pepper, the most aromatic of them are grown in Borneo which in Australia, you will be able to find in some good grocers and labelled as Sarawak pepper.

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