My Pb’s Porridge

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It sucks being an adult. Work on that proposal! Apply for that job! Find a boyfriend! Get married! Responsibilities everywhere. In the midst of completing the endless task list, I fall into little periods of hiatus which I call my occasional episodes of quarter life crisis, worsened by the mood swing like London’s weather. One moment I’m Mother Teresa on a mission to change the world and the next I’m a bed hugger binging on junk food and Friends for the nth time, mouthing Chandler’s jokes as he speaks. When that happens I go with the flow and allow myself to reach the bottom of the pit, at which point I finally get out of bed and make my Pb’s porridge. Why such a name? Read on.

There is no secret to the ingredients or technique for this one-pot dish. Rice, carrot, any protein of your choice, pepper (lots of it) and spring onion. I hold it so dearly to my heart because of the moment it brings back: You know that moment when you thought you are just one ordinary person in this 7-billion-people world and bam! suddenly you realize you could actually have something special? Yes, it’s that feeling.

It all began with a combination of durian and coconut milk that led to sweat, fever, lies (yes lies) and lies backfiring (karma) and ended up with Polar Bear (Pb, see?) woken up from a 12-hour sleep and escorted to the dining table.

“Here, eat this, take some medicine. You’ll feel better and prepare to leave soon.”

“But why can’t I stay longer? You see I’m having fever from all the durian and coconut we ate yesterday.”, Pb responded to my oblivion.

“You’re not even supposed to be here, you have to accompany your relatives to the hospital remember?”

“OK, fine.”

As we started eating, we talked and talked and talked. Suddenly Pb stopped and told me: “You know, this is the most delicious porridge I have ever eaten. I’m not exaggerating.”

“Wow, so would you think that my porridge transcends boundaries? I have never served this to any non-Vietnamese before.”, I asked, trying to keep a straight face.

“Yea I think so.”

And we both burst into laughing, forgetting just a few hours ago I was a cold-blooded human being who woke up a sick person just to salvage a lie we told earlier (the relative-hospital lie) so that Pb could sleep over the night before.

I’m sure we all have doubt in ourselves every once in a while: Am I going to pass the test? Am I fit for corporate world? Will my manuscript ever be accepted at all? The more we question, the more frustrated we become because it is just what it is, full of uncertainty. Sometimes all we need is an affirmation from someone who has faith in us and who believes that we are capable. They offer support and a pillar of hope – They give us Pb’s porridge – to remind us that regardless of how many crappy products we have made, don’t lose faith in ourselves, the best is yet to come.

Cook’s notes:

  • The proportion of rice to glutinous rice will determine how creamy and soft the texture is at the end. This depends on individual, so you can experiment to suit your taste. Remember too much glutinous rice will thicken the mixture faster and the rice tends to sink to the bottom so you need to stir more often (this happened to me a few times where I had to scrape off the bottom of my pot to remove the burned rice).
  • I use plain water for this and add in some bits of dried shrimp and squid for flavor, but you can replace the water with any stock of your choice.

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Ingredients:

1 cup rice

½ cup glutinous rice

1 cup diced carrot (approx 100 gr)

¼ cup of dried shrimps soaked in water to soften and drained

2 stalks of spring onion, with leaves finely chopped and bulb into pieces of about 3cm each.

2 stalks of coriander, roughly chopped

2 century eggs

Salt, pepper, sugar to taste

Fried shallots to garnish

Instructions:

  1. Wash the rice and glutinous rice until the water runs clear.
  2. Put rice, carrot and dried shrimps in the pot, fill generously with water, approx 1 part rice to 3 parts of water.
  3. Let simmer for about 40 minutes, check every 15 minutes and scrape the bottom to make sure rice doesn’t stick to the bottom. Add in water if the porridge become too thick.
  4. When the porridge is about to reach the desired consistency (half of the grain will lose its shape and the mixture has a milky color), start seasoning to taste. Add in the spring onion bulb and century egg. Continue simmering for 3 minutes and turn off the heat.
  5. Serve hot, sprinkle with pepper, spring onion, coriander and dried shallots.

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