Mui Kee Congee
Photograph: Mui Kee Congee

Makan Spotlight: Porridge

This smooth rice gruel is anything but boring

Fabian Loo

Porridge gets a bad reputation for being bland and boring. While it is true that a bowl of rice gruel can unease, particularly so for those feeling under the weather, porridge when prepped right, can also offer comfort – almost like a hug for the stomach. 

And to be clear, we are not talking about Western-style variants (oatmeal, grits, and the likes). Porridge in Asia’s context, almost always comes prepped using rice. It can land on the table in various forms: as Cantonese-style congee, thick and almost creamy; as Teochew muay or porridge, plain and enjoyed with plenty of side dishes, and more. Here are some popular porridge styles you can sample. 

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For Cantonese-style congee

  • Hawker
  • Hougang

Congee is often thick and smooth – a result of boiling rice till the grains are barely discernible. Some have it plain, but for greater flavour, ingredients of seafood, meats, and vegetables are often thrown in. At Sin Heng Kee, this long-standing store focuses on congee served with various ingredients; your order could come with meatballs, slices of pork, pig’s liver, and even the option to throw in cubes of century eggs.

  • Chinese
  • Orchard

At Mui Kee, old-school congee from the streets of Mongkok is given an Orchard Road makeover. Its history dates all the way back to 1979, and the recipe has remained unchanged since. Silky rice porridge comes cooked with premium ingredients that include parrotfish belly, sliced parrotfish, homemade pork balls, and more. Dough fritters served on the side are an essential component; dip it in the bowl and let it soak up all the soupy goodness. 

For Teochew-style porridge

  • Bukit Timah

If variety’s what you’re looking for, Teochew muay will fit the bill. Rice porridge, with the grains still intact (almost like a rice-soup consistency), acts as a plain base to enjoy a wide selection of side dishes. At Joo Seng Teochew Porridge, options feature the braised duck leg, swimming in a pool of savoury-sweet soya sauce base. Remember to request an additional bowl of dark zhup or sauce to ladle over the bowl. 

  • Hawker
  • Chinatown

This humble stall at Chinatown Complex has been dishing out Teochew porridge for over 20 years. The husband and wife duo start prepping at 6am to serve the breakfast crowd at around nine – but come around 11am for a full range of what they have to offer – omelette with preserved radish, braised pork trotters, and more. A Teochew meal is not complete without steamed fish, and the ones served here are fresh and seasonal, best enjoyed by dipping the firm flesh into chilli sauce and tau cheo. 

For fish porridge

  • Raffles Place

The star of this dish is undoubtedly the meaty slices of fish. In fact, ‘porridge’ is a loose term here; cooked rice is literally thrown into the soup, then warmed for a few seconds before serving. Fish bones are used to flavour the stock, and prawns are sometimes thrown into the mix to impart natural sweetness. 

For frog porridge

  • Singaporean
  • Geylang

Eminent Frog Porridge received the Michelin Bib Gourmand award. And it rightfully deserved it for its signature bowl of porridge served with chunks of flavoured frog legs. Choose your piping hot bowl – the spicy option where the frog legs are cooked in dried chili and soy sauce or the mild option where chilies are substituted with ginger and spring onions.

  • Chinese
  • Kallang
G7 Sin Ma
G7 Sin Ma

Dreaming of frog leg porridge in the middle of the night? Get those late-night cravings sorted at this restaurant in Geylang. G7 Sin Ma is open from 3am to 3pm (last order at 2.30pm), and offers dry chilli bullfrog or the ginger spring onion bullfrog. Round out your meal with tze char dishes like sweet and sour pork, marmite pork ribs, or even a juicy black pepper crab. 

  • River Valley

Bubur Ayam is an Indonesian-style porridge, where rice congee comes corned with shredded chicken, chopped scallions, shallots, and sometimes a dash of kicap manis. Over at Plentyfull, Oma’s Bubur Ayam ($12.90) is a modern take on the classic, soothing dish. Japanese rice comes served with onsen egg, chicken roulade, and spiced with ginger and scallion. 

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