I was not feeling well recently. Without pouring out details of my afflictions, suffice to say I was feeling rather delicate and while convalescing, I needed equally gentle yet comforting food. So the natural thing to do was turn to the sort of meals my mother used to make for me when I was recovering from whatever childhood illness I was occasionally struck with.
Back in the 70s, she had an interesting repertoire of diverse meal options for the convalescing child. From porridge to crackers with condensed milk and Campbell’s Cream of Chicken soup from the can. It was a mish-mash of traditional Chinese dishes and Sunset magazine-inspired, quick-and-easy recipes for the modern working woman of the 70s.
From that repertoire, I recently made a porridge inspired by that spirit of adventure and tradition. Not strictly her recipe, this is a simple pork and pumpkin concoction that ticked all the boxes. It is comforting, easy to eat, gentle on the stomach, full of nutrition, easy to make and tasty – with the savouriness of the pork, and sweetness from the pumpkin. That it is quite colourful is a small bonus. My favourite colour is yellow, and so is the pumpkin—sort of anyway.
But rest assured, this is not just a dish for the unwell. It is something I would make if it was raining outside and chilly (that’s as wintry as it gets in tropical Singapore) or if I felt fat or had too many rich meals and wanted to cut down on the calories for a while. It’s also great for babies on solid food or the elderly who have trouble chewing or are just in a delicate way. And poor university students who only have one pot to cook with and limited cooking skills.
Finally it is not bland. It is subtle in flavour, but very comforting indeed.
Pork & Pumpkin Porridge
The beauty about making porridge is that it is not a precise science. The portions below are estimates, so feel free to add more water if you prefer a more watery dish, and less if you want it thicker. Similarly add or reduce the amount of pork and pumpkin as you like.
½ cup long grain rice, rinsed and drained
3 ½ cups water
150g pumpkin or butternut squash, diced
120g minced pork
A handful of chopped bok choy, chye sim or napa cabbage (optional)
½ tsp chicken stock powder or ¼ tsp salt (optional)
Marinade for minced pork:
1 tsp soy sauce
½ tsp Chinese cooking wine
½ tsp corn flour
Marinade pork with soy sauce, wine and cornflour. Set aside for 10 mins.
Combine the rice and water in a pot and bring to a boil for 10 mins. Stir occasionally to prevent the porridge from sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning.
Stir in the pork and pumpkin. After it boils again, add the vegetables and turn down the heat and let it simmer until the rice is nicely broken and it has become a thicker and milkier. Stir occasionally to prevent the porridge from sticking to the bottom of the pot.