A Simple Hokkien Lunch – Porridge & Side Dishes

Happy Sunday to all! :D

My late father-in-law was an immigrant from the Fujian (in Mandarin language, with a dialect known as Hokkien) province in China, and he came to work in Malaysia when he was a young man. In those times, there were boats full of Chinese people who came to the South East Asian countries to look for jobs and they came with very little money and belongings. My husband always like to remind our children of the hard but successful life of their paternal grandfather, who at times didn’t have much money to eat and lunch was often just a huge bowl of watery plain, white porridge and a preserved salted plum. He would bite off a tiny bit of the plum and because it was very salty, he has to down a few spoonfuls of porridge.

My husband grew up in a family that has a tradition of having simple lunches consisting usually of plain white porridge together with two or three side dishes like fried fish, pickled lettuce and preserved bean curd. They didn’t have rice for lunch like my family did, and other than porridge, lunch can also be noodles.

As the weather has been extremely hot and humid these few days, having porridge for lunch was ideal and I took some pictures of our typical Hokkien meal to show you. Only thing was I forgot to buy those orange sweet potatoes to add into the porridge today, and so it was just plain white porridge. :oops:

A few hundred years ago, sweet potato was brought over from the Philippines and introduced to the Fujuan province in China, where it was planted as a successful crop. Then, when there was a shortage in the supply of rice due to a drought, sweet potatoes (which was a very hardy crop) were added to their watery, plain porridge to make up the bulk.

These days, plain white porridge is usually given to young children, the elderly or convalescents as it is easy to eat and digested. There is another popular version of white porridge known as Teochew (another province in China) Porridge which has more water in it and the rice grains are not as soft as the Hokkien type.

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My husband loves this porridge so much that he will have a huge bowl of this :lol:

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I had some Red Snapper fish steaks frying in a skillet. They are served with some of the leftover oil and a good splash of good quality soy sauce. Fried fish is everyone’s favourite dish to go with their porridge.

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A very typical Hokkien accompaniment to porridge – Preserved Radish Omellete a.k.a. “Chye Poh N’ng” in the Hokkien dialect, or “Choy Poh Tan” in the Cantonese dialect. A must-have.

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Crispy fried small salted fish, with some sprinkles of sugar. Small bites of salted fish are taken with each spoonful of porridge. My youngest son’s favourite with his porridge. :D

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I like to have a vegetable dish as well and this is a simple stirfry of French Beans and julienned Carrot with Soft Tofu slices.

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A small bowl of braised, soft peanuts

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Some pickled lettuce

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A 1-inch piece of Fermented Beancurd, known as “Tau Khiam” in Hokkien. As it is very salty, we would just take a pinch of it to go with each spoonful of porridge. :D

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8 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Jen said,

    Hi Choesf,

    This is my favourite dish. My side dishes are normally canned like black bean with fried dace (fish), pickled lettuce, bamboo shoot with pork (think is called chaosansi) as I’m too lazy to cook. Oh yes, the saltiness of the fermented beancurd just whets your appetite. I will always end up finishing the whole pot of white porridge..lol.

    Enjoy your blog..your recipes are all so yummy…esp the honey teriyaki chicken. I will try out this recipe for my BBQ this saturday :)

    Warm Regards,
    Jen

  2. 2

    happyhomemaker88 said,

    Good evening to you, dear Jen :D

    Thank you for your lovely comments. I think many Chinese people actually like this simple meal of plain porridge with sides. Oh, we love the canned Black Beans With Fried Dace also and my youngest son would pick out all the black beans to eat if we are not watching him like a hawk! :lol:

    Have fun with your BBQ this Saturday!

    With peace and harmony,

    choesf :D

  3. 3

    sweetrosie said,

    That was a lovely photo essay dear choesf. I really enjoyed learning about the history and the traditional way of serving this meal.

    I know it as congee – are we talking about the same thing? Is congee another dialect’s name for this?

    I haven’t even eaten it! I have seen it at many hotel buffet breakfasts in Malaysia and have always been unsure about what to put together to make the meal. Now you have educated me and I am so grateful :)

    choesf – is this “comfort food”? Another question dear – why does the lettuce look like stems? Are the leaves pickled as well, or is it a special type of lettuce? Oh, and another one :) are the sour plums you mentioned the same as Japanese umeboshi?

    Beautiful post choesf, really lovely; thank you :)

    love & hugs xx

  4. 4

    yen1908 said,

    Hi choesf

    Plain porridge with lettuce, braised peanuts and canned tuna flakes are also my family’s favourite! especially so when I am lazy to cook :)

    We love the braised peanuts so much that I will buy one BIG can to accompany the plain porridge. It is good as a detox too!

    Thanks for reminding me to cook this for lunch tomorrow! lazy bones :) :) :)

  5. 5

    shopaholics said,

    hi, i’m a hokkien too, and these are also the way we eat porridge especially de eggs..hehe..:) reading ur blog really make me hungry. Thats why, i always make sure i’m full only then i’ll read your blog. Your hubby and children will for sure enjoy your every meal. :)
    Happy day..:)

  6. 6

    happyhomemaker88 said,

    Happy Saturday to you, my dear sweetrosie! :D

    Wow, time flies and it is now the weekend again – I am now thinking if I want to make this porridge meal again. :lol:

    In Malaysia, we have always called this type of watery rice grains as “porridge”, and I think “congee” is perhaps a Hong Kong term? I may be wrong. The other day, I was watching this food programme on TV about a shop in Singapore that sells about 11 different types of porridge (containing different meats and tastes, all cooked together and served in a bowl, sort of like a noodle soup but using porridge as a base) and I went absolutely ga-ga over this shop’s porridge. I’d love to find the same kind of shop here in KL and be spoilt for choice over the types of porridge available. :roll:

    Yes, this is very much a “comfort food”, which we would love to have whenever we feel under the weather, have no appetite, we want something easy to eat and digest, or as a light meal in itself.

    The “pickled lettuce” is actually the stems of the plant that is used and pickled in a base that has a taste of soy sauce in it and it is salty and sour at the same time. I think the English name on the can is a misnomer because in our Chinese dialects, it is actually known is “Canned Mustard Greens” or in Cantonese – “Goon Tow Choy Sum”…so, I don’t really know which is the right vegetable that they used! :lol:

    The pickled plum that my father-in-law had with his plain porridge was the dried, wrinkled and salted type, different from the Japanese Umeboshi.

    There you have it, now you know how to eat this type of porridge the next time you come to KL! :lol:

    Have a wonderful, relaxing weekend!

    With love and hugs,

    choesf :D

  7. 7

    happyhomemaker88 said,

    Good morning to you, my dear yen! :D

    Wow, I didn’t know the braised peanuts can help to detoxify our body system, too…I’ll be sure to make my kids eat more of those as usually, it is only my hubby and I who have the peanuts. Wah, all this talk about this porridge is making me want to make this meal again for today! :lol:

    Thank you for telling me your version of how your family eat this porridge!

    Have a relaxing weekend!

    With love and hugs,

    choesf :D

  8. 8

    happyhomemaker88 said,

    Hello there, my fellow Hokkien shopaholics :lol:

    Thank you for your lovely comments. Hey, you’ve got a good idea there – read my blog only when you are full. You know what, replying to all your comments here is making me hungry now, too! :lol:

    I better go and get brunch for my family. :roll:

    You have a wonderful weekend, too!

    With love and hugs,

    choesf :D


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