Image Credit from Japanese Cooking 101
About this time last year, I was waxing on about how excited I was about the mercury dropping and it finally getting to be cold enough for porridge in the morning. Check that post for good, basic European porridge recipe suggestions (hazelnut and chocolate is still a house favorite). This year, though, we’re going to look at porridges across the world.
Mushy grains with flavor additives might well be one of the first things we cooked, even before becoming sedentary agriculturalists 10,000 years ago. The technique is downright simple: boil a grain that would otherwise be inedible in water until it’s soft. Make it more exciting by adding dairy, nuts, fruit, fish, or whatever else you have on hand, especially if it sweetens it.
Japanese Rice Porridge: Okayu お粥
When rice is used in porridge, it is technically called a congee (the Tamil word likely came to English via Portuguese). In Japan the term is okayu. The basic recipe is one part rice to five to seven parts water and a pinch of salt boiled for 30 minutes on low. To this extremely bland base, all manner of things can be added: salmon roe, onion, ginger, spinach, egg, and sweet potato, but the dish is best known served with umeboshi — a pickled, salty plum. The basic recipe can be modified by boiling the rice in chicken, fish, or miso broth instead of water. For a different taste altogether, cook the rice in green tea (chagayu) like Buddhist monks.
For more on Okayu, check out the following resources: