Fish porridge is very popular in Singapore. Every hawker centre or food court have at least one stall selling fish porridge.
Fish porridge 鱼粥 (yu zhou) is a one-meal dish featuring rice porridge with fresh fish.
Rice porridge is a comfort food for many Singaporeans. People who are ill or convalescing would usually consume porridge because it is light and gentle on the digestive system.
Porridge water, the starchy liquid created from boiling rice contains vitamins B, A, E and minerals, is recommended for people suffering from diarrhoea caused by cholera or gastroenteritis as a dietary supplement.
Fresh fish offers a burst of ocean sweetness and contrasting texture against the earthly note of the rice porridge. Any type of white fish with firm flesh can be used. Spanish mackerel is a clear favourite in Singapore. Followed by snakeheads 生鱼 (sheng yu). Salmon has also become quite popular in recent years.
In Singapore, there are 2 main types of fish porridge sold: Teochew fish porridge 潮州鱼粥 (chao zhou yu zhou) and Cantonese fish porridge 广式鱼粥 (guang shi yu zhou).
Cantonese fish porridge is like a thick creamy rice soup. The fish used is usually boneless, thinly sliced or in small chunks. If the sliced fish is paper thin, it is added raw to the rice porridge and the heat from the porridge itself lightly cook the fish. Fish that are just done are heavenly.
You can visit my How to Cook Porridge page to find out how to make thick creamy rice porridge.
Teochew fish porridge is a lot more watery. The rice grains are still distinct and firm. It resembles a thin rice broth with fresh fish chunks.
At a very traditional Teochew fish porridge stall, you can spot a huge earthern pot used to store the porridge base. It looks like a pot of starchy milky liquid. The rice grains are at the bottom of the pot. Once you place your order, the vendor will stir the pot and scoop an appropriate amount of rice grains into a smaller cooking pot and top up with some soup stock to cook. Add the necessary ingredients, ensure everything is cooked and hot before pouring the porridge into a serving bowl.
A thing to note. Teochew fish porridge is not the same as Teochew porridge.
Teochew porridge is served plain with different side dishes that you pick and choose. These range from braised duck, peanuts, salted vegetables, steamed fish, fish cakes etc. These side dishes are served separately from the porridge. In Teochew fish porridge, the fish is cooked and served in the porridge.
In the video above, you can see the amount of work that goes into preparing the soup stock for the porridge.
Okay so much for street food. Now let's learn how to make some homemade fish porridge.
There are 2 ways to prepare porridge at home. You can cook the plain rice porridge first separately from the other ingredients. Or you can add the ingredients as the porridge is cooking.
The method used depends on how delicate the ingredients are. Fish are delicate and so cannot be cooked for too long so it is better to use the first method.