The first thing you’re going to say is ‘porridge isn’t ramen.’ Well aware of that, dude. Then again, these often show up on the instant noodle aisle of an Asian grocery and as such, I thought it could use some attention. This is a Vietnamese seafood porridge, much like what they call congee in China. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about Vietnamese rice porridge:
In Vietnam, rice congee, called cháo (Vietnamese: cháo), is sometimes cooked with pandan leaves or Asian mung bean. In its simplest form (plain rice porridge, known as cháo hoa), it is a food for times of famine and hardship to stretch the rice ration. Or, as is especially common among Buddhist monks, nuns and lay people, it can be a simple breakfast food eaten with pickled vegetables or fermented tofu (chao).
Despite its humble ubiquity among the poor, it is also popular as a main entrée when cooked with a variety of meats. For example, cháo gà is cooked with chicken, garlic, and ginger. The rice porridge is cooked in the broth in which a whole chicken had been boiled, and once the chicken is cooked, the meat is sliced and layered on a bed of shredded, raw cabbage, sliced scallions, and drizzled with a vinegar-based sauce, to be eaten as a side dish to the porridge. Other combinations include cháo vịt (duck porridge), which is cooked in the same fashion as the chicken porridge, but with duck. Cháo lòng heo is made with lòng heo (a variety of offal from pork or duck with sliced portions of congealed pork blood). Cháo is typically served with quẩy on the side.
Cháo bầu is a congee containing pig kidney (bầu dục lợn). A specialty of the Hóc Môn district in Ho Chi Minh City, it is typically eaten in rural areas of southern Vietnam. Well-known cháo bầu vendors include Cánh Đồng Hoang, Cô Ba Nữ, and Sáu Quẻn.
It is also common to eat cháo during an illness, as it is believed the porridge is easy to digest while being fortifying. For such purposes, the cháo is sometimes cooked with roasted white rice, giving the porridge broth a more nuanced body and a subtle, nutty flavor. In some parts of Vietnam, local customs call for making cháo as offerings for the “wandering souls” during the Buddhist Vu Lan summer feast.
On our flight back from Taiwan last month, we had some choices as to what to eat as an in-flight meal. The last thing I had was pork porridge, basically congee. What it had as a condiment or topping was a package of fish floss. Fish floss is basically dried fish which is pulverized with a little salt and sugar. It’s pretty much a powdered thing. Anyways, Kit didn’t want to try hers and so I ended up with her package of it. I’ve been trying to find some reason to use it before it expired and this looks like it will work nicely; seafood porridge, fish floss. Sounds right, yeah? Let’s have a look at this one from Vietnam.
An import sticker from the back of the package (click image to enlarge). Contains seafood.
Here’s the back of the package (click image to enlarge). To prepare, add contents of package to bowl as well as sachet contents. Add 350ml boiling water and cover for 3 minutes. Stir well and enjoy! These are the instructions given, but in the icons of how to prepare, it shows a sachet with bits of matter exiting from it, making me thing perhaps one could add the vegetable sachet at the end, however they wouldn’t hydrate as well as when steeped.
The uncooked porridge; basically looks like flaked rice.
The soup base sachet.
Definitely has a seafood scent.
An oil sachet.
Has an onion scent.
The vegetables sachet.
Looks to be green onion.
Finished (click image to enlarge). Added fish floss, coriander and mung bean sprout. The porridge is like a thin oatmeal – I heard a woman asking a chef if she could have thicker congee and the chef mentioned it just depends on the amount of water you add. I went with the prescribed 350ml on the package. The flavor is nice – a tasty seafood flavor. The vegetable bits hydrated well and included coriander which had an exceptionally good flavor. 3.25 out of 5.0 stars.EAN bar code 8934561210566.
Here’s Vifon’s bowl version of their fish flavored porridge.
A documentary about Vietnamese street foods.