The Slanted Door’s Chicken Porridge—At Your Door via Munchery!
Feeling under the weather has never tasted so soothing, thanks to the newest addition to our expanding array of dishes from Bay Area icon and executive chef at The Slanted Door, Charles Phan. Ginger-poached chicken offers a heartiness to this creamy rice porridge, garnished with cilantro, rau ram (Vietnamese coriander), scallions, and shallots for a meal best served where you are—curled up in the comfort of your own home.
A Delicious History of the Dish
Although the English term for this simple staple (“congee”) stems from the Tamil word Kanji, rice porridge is thought to have originated in China thousands of years ago. Much like soy sauce, which was born to stretch a then-precious resource—salt—rice porridge arose from a need to make more from less. The addition of large amounts of water transformed a few grains of rice into a meal, breaking down and spreading the nutrients into a soupy mixture that could fill hungry stomachs in times of hardship. Rice porridge quickly made its way into bowls across Asia (and the world), with each country offering a new twist as this traditional famine food blossomed into a quotidian comfort.
Around the World
In China, congee—or “zhou” in Mandarin, “jook” in Cantonese—is occasionally eaten with fried breadsticks to soak up the porridge. The Cantonese version touts a particularly soupy consistency, using a 12:1 water-to-rice ratio. Brown rice is also used from time to time in China, but is much less common and takes longer than the traditional white rice.
In Japan, the water-to-rice ratio hovers around 5:1, cooking faster and resulting in a thicker porridge. As is the case with many cultures, Japanese rice porridge is a favored as a remedy for the sick and elderly, as well as a transition food for babies before they are ready for regular rice. A special Japanese seven herb porridge is eaten on the 7th of January to celebrate the New Year, and acts as a refreshing palate cleanser in between the other festive dishes.
In Vietnam, “cháo” is common among Buddhist monks, and often made with meat for main courses (like Charles Phan’s signature chicken porridge). When the dish is given to the sick in Vietnam, the recipe sometimes calls for the white rice to be roasted first, which gives the broth more body and a subtly nutty flavor.
Chef Phan’s Inspiration
Charles Phan captures the magnificent simplicity of this nourishing dish in one simple phrase, “This is the breakfast of champions, Vietnamese style!”. Perfect for anytime of the day, his chicken porridge is a wholesome pick-me-up that empowers your body with light but full flavor.
Your Go-to Pro Tip
It is not necessarily the water-to-rice ratio that defines the texture of your porridge—the amount of time you simmer the rice in the water, plus the type of rice, will determine how soupy the final product is. The longer the rice is in the water, the more broken down it will become. Charles Phan’s prefered variety—broken rice—is less starchy than jasmine rice and won’t soak up all the broth, giving the dish a wonderfully creamy consistency.