Sunday, December 14, 2008
On grueling gruel
One of the most versatile cooking styles all over the world is the creation of different gruels or porridges. Basically, one takes a grain of one type or another, and cooks it in sufficient liquid for the starches to release and thicken the dish. One could argue that such porridges are a type of soup, although that may be stretching the definition a little. A wide variety of grains have seen use as porridge - oats (oatmeal), corn (polenta/corn meal mush), wheat (farina aka cream of wheat), and arguably the most versatile is rice, in the form of congee and a myriad other names (jook, burbur, lugao, ambeh). The photograph is a preparation of congee I made with a chicken broth base, and bolstered by green soy beans (edamame) and sliced century eggs (pidan). I've seen porridges made using spelt, and perhaps other grains. The porridge is so ubiquitous in world cuisine, I think it may be the universal comfort food. Easy to prepare, cheap, and so varied in application, from sweet to savory, it may hold its own as a subcuisine.
I hope to write about additional ideas on making porridges, and my own ideas on making them. For now, some excellent postings on other blogs about rice porridge.
Over at Eating Asia, they write about the creamy and cruncy concoctions in Indonesia. Minimalist writer, blogger, and vlogger Mark Bittman posts a recipe for savory jook on his site, although I think jook is far more forgiving than he makes it out to be. And Pepper over at Frugal Cuisine posts a number of congee related articles. I am linking to the most recent one, and follow the trail. She has some great ideas.