Being a lady who grew up in an authentic Teochew family (i.e. both my parental roots are Teochew), I am definitely not unfamiliar with the various Teochew traditions tand practices.
One of the traditions that stands out most in my memory as a Teochew girl in a Teochew family is that we had Teochew muay (porridge) at least once a day for our meals. There would be that few side dishes that were almost always there to accompany our porridge, most of which were salty and preserved. This included fermented beancurd, steamed fish, preserved tauchio (preserved beans), salted egg, braised pork and belly, and steamed fishcake (those that come in a whole big chunk and that are handmade, not machine-made) among a long list of other dishes. My mother told me that our grandparents used to be Teochew porridge streetside hawkers at the Boat Quay district and were hence very skillful at preparing these dishes on a daily basis.
Admittedly though, I did not really enjoy eating Teochew muay back then, and even till now, this dish is never going to be my first choice of food, both at home and out of the house. But this really is because I’m not someone who’s in favour of soupy meals, just because Singapore is so hot, so I usually would prefer to eat ‘dry’ food (think fried noodles, fried rice, dim sum) and gobble down loads of plain water. Dishes such as herbal soup, steamboat buffets, hotpots and porridge, these choices are all never within my radar. Teochew porridge is therefore one of those things that I do not think of having for a meal of my own. That said, if I do get a chance to enjoy a Teochew porridge feast, I would be happy to indulge in the side dishes, sans the porridge. That’s what I have been doing since young – I pick at all the side dishes and ignore the lead character. I therefore grew up with a very unhealthy liking for all things salty and preserved. I can eat up a salted egg all by itself, with no qualms about how much it’s going to increase my cholesterol and sodium levels. I especially love the Teochew handmade fishcake. Give me a whole piece to have by myself and I’ll be a happy girl for a day.
So much about the side dishes – let me bring myself back to the highlight of the day – Teochew porridge. It is one of the most simple dishes to prepare at home if you would like to have it easy for a day. Get the accompanying ingredients from the supermarket. Things like fermented beancurd, salted egg, preserved radish can keep for a very long time without spoiling easily. Just one ingredient plus water and you get to have a meal in fifteen minutes!
- Water: 950ml
- Rice: 1/2 cup
- Bring water to a boil.
- Add rice. Continue boiling on high heat for another 15min.
- Serve hot with salted egg, preserved radish, fermented tofu or braised peanuts, depending on your preferences.
Some say that using ‘newly harvested rice’ for cooking Teochew porridge is better than using ‘old rice’ because it is less starchy. However, if you are not too particular about food, both will do just fine. Just be careful not to cook the rice for too long – both would help to ensure that your porridge remains watery instead of becoming starchy.