This porridge represents my childhood. I grew up in Central Java with my grandparents and I remember my grandpa used to take me to a chicken porridge stall every Sunday after our morning walk. I would finish a whole bowl and more often than not, ask for seconds. This porridge is Chinese influenced with the addition of youtiao (Chinese doughnuts - aka cakwe in Indonesian) dipped into the porridge. But the flavour is definitely Javanese: sweet and salty from the chicken broth that is ladled over it, and spicy from the tomato sambal. I do have to warn you that this is not a simple porridge that you could throw on a whim. There are many components that go into it and they take time to make. And you might need to go down to an Asian grocery store for some of the ingredients. But it's inexpensive and serves a crowd. I always look forward to eating it, be it for breakfast, lunch or dinner. —sel et poivre
8 or more
For the porridge
uncooked jasmine rice, thoroughly washed
lemongrass, pounded with a pestle
chicken bouillon cubes
For the soy-chicken broth and garnish
red Asian shallots, thinly sliced
vegetable oil (for frying shallots)
chicken thighs (bone-in, skin-off)
fat garlic clove, minced
ginger, the size of your pinky, minced
red Asian shallots, thinly sliced
Indonesian kecap manis (thick, sweet, and caramel-y soy sauce. pronounced: ketchup ma-niece)
light soy sauce
salt, to taste
Chinese doughnuts, cut up to bite-sized pieces (can be found in the frozen section of your Asian grocery store)
boiled eggs, halved
spring onion, thinly sliced
smallish tomato, roughly chopped
red bird's eye chillies, roughly sliced (deseeded if you're a wimp like me)
First things first, MAKE THE PORRIDGE. Pound the lemongrass with a pestle and make a knot out of it. In the largest pot that you have, bring 2 litres of water to the boil and add in the rice, lemongrass and chicken bouillon cubes. Cover and let cook over high heat for 45 minutes (meanwhile, if you're the multi-tasking kind, boil some eggs, make the chicken broth, and fry the shallots).
Check on the rice every 5 to 10 minutes, stirring and adding in more water - 500ml at a time so that the rice doesn't dry up. I used a total of around 4 litres of water. When the 45 minutes are up, lower the heat to medium-low and let it simmer for another 15 minutes, uncovered. Stir it often so the porridge doesn't get stuck to the bottom of the pan. The texture of the porridge should be quite thick but not overly so. Kind of like your average bowl of oatmeal (see picture). Remove from heat, discard the lemongrass and set aside.
Now, ON TO THE FRIED SHALLOTS. In a medium skillet, heat 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Stick a chopstick into the oil to check if it's hot enough. If bubbles instantly appear around the chopstick, you're ready to go. Slide in 10 thinly sliced red Asian shallots. Stir CONSTANTLY and let it cook until golden brown. Scoop them out of the hot oil using a spider and set aside. Leave the oil alone in the skillet and ignore it for a moment.
AS FOR THE SOY-CHICKEN BROTH: in another pot, bring 1 litre of water to the boil. Add in the chicken thighs and poach for 5 minutes over medium heat. Fish the chicken thighs out and using two forks, pull and shred the meat from the bone. Reserve the chicken water.
Using the same skillet and oil from the fried shallots, cook the minced garlic, ginger and 2 thinly sliced shallots for about a minute over medium heat until the aroma tickles your nose. Add in the shredded chicken and stir for 30 seconds more. Now add in the kecap manis and soy sauce. Stir to coat well for another 15 seconds. Pour in the reserved chicken water and bring to the boil. Have a taste of the broth. It should taste salty and sweet. Put in more salt if you feel the need. Set aside.
Next, MAKE THE TOMATO SAMBAL. Using a mortar and pestle, pound the tomato and chillies to a rough mixture. Add sugar, salt, and a tablespoon of the soy-chicken broth. Season accordingly and set aside.
Now for the LAST STEP: ASSEMBLING THE PORRIDGE (phew, aren't you glad?). In a bowl, add a portion of porridge, then ladle in the soy-chicken broth and the shredded chicken over it. Put a half boiled egg and slices of Chinese doughnuts. Scatter some spring onion and fried shallots over it. Serve with the tomato sambal and prawn crackers. Enjoy!