Why It Works
- Gently crushing the rice yields a mixture of finer pieces, which melt into the porridge, and larger grains that add texture.
- Adding the potato and chicken after the porridge is partially cooked keeps them tender and distinct.
When I was growing up, whenever I was sick, the first thing my mother would do was get a pot of rice, lentils, and water simmering away for porridge. It was considered to be potent stuff, with the power to cure everything from the flu to a short temper. I often suffered from the latter, so the hum of rice gurgling on a stovetop was the soundtrack of my life.
In our house, it was called gulaothi, but there are countless variations on rice porridge, with almost as many names—kanji in India, congee in China, and so forth. It can be as simple as water and rice, or it can be simmered with milk, flavored with chiles and spices, or topped with different accouterments. This is the version I grew up on—bright from plenty of turmeric and ginger, with a pungent hit of mustard oil and a garnish of spicy green-chile chutney.
To make it, I start by rinsing aromatic jasmine rice. When the water runs clear, I cover the rice with fresh water and allow it to soak. Meanwhile, I prepare the ginger and fresh turmeric, both of which have stubborn fibers that run vertically along the entire rhizome, making them tough to chew through. By thinly slicing them crosswise before cutting the resulting coins into one-eighth-inch matchsticks, I get spicy, tender bites throughout the porridge.
After a few minutes, when the rice has barely swelled, I drain off the soaking liquid and gently crush the grains with a pestle or rolling pin. The goal is to have some finely crushed pieces—roughly as small as cornmeal—along with larger grains that are just cracked. When cooked, the fine grains dissolve into the water or stock, giving the porridge body, while the larger pieces remain distinct and add texture.
That’s pretty much all the prep that's required. I sauté the ginger and turmeric in butter or ghee, along with salt and Kashmiri red chile powder, until aromatic, then add the crushed rice and rinsed red lentils. I top it all off with a generous glug of chicken stock, but you could opt for water if you want to keep things light and simple. When the liquid comes to a boil, I reduce the heat to a bare simmer.
Meanwhile, I prepare the chutney by finely mincing Thai green chiles and cilantro. This verdant mosaic is mixed with sharp mustard oil, fresh lime juice, and salt into a loose, chimichurri-style salsa. The fiery chutney perks up the muted flavors of the porridge, adding striking color and flavor to every bite.
Once the rice and lentils are completely tender—after about 30 minutes of simmering—I toss in peeled and diced potatoes, along with a couple of chicken thighs. Then I let it all bubble together for roughly 30 minutes longer, until the chicken is cooked through and much of the rice has melted into the broth. At this point, I remove the chicken thighs and, once they've cooled enough to handle, dice the meat into small, bite-size pieces before returning it to the pot. Adding the chicken and potatoes at the halfway point keeps them tender and distinct in the creamy porridge.
To serve, I ladle the porridge into bowls and top it off with squiggles of mustard and cilantro chutney, plus a big handful of crispy fried shallots. Whether this rice porridge has the power to heal the flu is still up for debate, but it’s undeniable that this wholesome bowl of comfort is a delicious way to feed a cold and fill your belly.
3/4 cup jasmine rice (5 1/3 ounces; 150g)
1 inch fresh turmeric (1/2 ounce; 15g), or 1 teaspoon dried turmeric
1 inch fresh ginger (1/2 ounce; 15g)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or ghee (1 ounce; 30g)
1/2 teaspoon Kashmiri red chile powder or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 cup red lentils (1.8 ounces; 50g), sorted and rinsed
6 cups chicken stock (1 1/2 quarts; 1.4L), homemade or store-bought
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 medium russet potato (10 ounces; 280g), peeled and diced into 1/2-inch pieces
2 chicken thighs (8 ounces; 224g)
1/2 bunch cilantro (1 ounce; 30g), finely chopped
2 Thai green chiles, finely chopped
2 tablespoons (30ml) freshly squeezed lime juice from 2 limes
2 tablespoons mustard oil (1 ounce; 30ml)
Crispy fried shallots, for garnish
In a medium bowl, rinse rice with cold water until water runs clear. Cover rice with fresh cold water and set aside to soak.
Meanwhile, peel turmeric (if using fresh) and ginger with a spoon. Thinly slice crosswise into 1/8-inch coins and slice each coin into 1/8-inch matchsticks.
Drain rice and return to bowl. Gently crush with a muddler, rolling pin, or pestle, breaking rice into uneven pieces ranging from cornmeal-sized grains to larger pieces that are cracked or shattered in half.
In a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat, melt butter until foamy. Add turmeric, ginger, and red chile and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add rice, lentils, and chicken stock. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a bare simmer. Simmer porridge, uncovered, until rice and lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.
Add potato and chicken thighs to porridge. Cook gently until potatoes are tender, chicken is cooked through, and porridge is thickened, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
Meanwhile, prepare the cilantro chutney. In a small bowl, mix cilantro and green chiles with lime juice and mustard oil, then season with salt. Stir to combine.
Remove chicken from porridge and transfer to a cutting board. When cool enough to handle, dice chicken into 1/2-inch pieces and return to porridge. Adjust seasoning to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, and add water if porridge becomes too thick.
Remove from heat and pour porridge into bowls. Garnish with cilantro chutney and crispy fried shallots to taste.
Mortar and pestle, muddler, or rolling pin; 4-quart saucepan
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 23g||29%|
|Saturated Fat 8g||39%|
|Total Carbohydrate 45g||16%|
|Dietary Fiber 4g||14%|
|Total Sugars 7g|
|Vitamin C 15mg||73%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|