Vietnamese Fish Porridge
There are many different versions of porridge, but the most common are chicken porridge, and fish porridge. Just as there are many varieties, there are just as many ways to make porridge. Some make a plan plain thick bland porridge and then add different types of broth and toppings. We present a very traditional southern way of making cháo cá, made famous in the Mekong delta region, known for its abundance of fish and sea life and floating markets.
- 1 cup jasmine long grain rice, rinsed and drained
- 1.5 liters or 6 cups of water
- 1.5 lb whole firm white fish such as snapper, stripe bass, cod, gutted and cleaned
- 1.5 ts kosher salt
- 2 large knob of peeled ginger divided: 1 sliced in chunks and crushed, the remainder thinly julienned
- 3 shallots (2 whole and 1 sliced thin)
- 3 cloves of minced garlic
- 1 medium onion peeled and quartered
- 2 tbs olive oil
- quality fish sauce (such as Red Boat)
- ½ cup chopped green onion and cilantro
- fried shallots
- fresh cracked pepper
- bean sprouts (optional)
Wash rice, drain in strainer or small holed colander, and set aside to dry.
In stock pot, bring to boil the whole fish, crushed ginger, whole shallots, onions along with 1.5 ts of salt. Boil about 5-8 minutes, or until the flesh is cooked. Carefully remove the fish and allow to cool. Reduce heat to medium low.
Meanwhile, in nonstick pan with heat on low, heat the olive oil and thinly sliced shallots along with the rice until its color becomes opaque and just slightly browned. Add the browned rice and shallots to the broth and continue to cook under medium heat, stirring occasionally.
Peel away the flesh of the fish and return the head, bones, and tail to the stock. Break up the flesh in chunks and season with a few dashes of fish sauce and pepper. Heat up another 1 tablespoon olive oil in same nonstick pan used to brown the rice and add minced garlic. When fragrant, quickly saute the fish chunks for a few minutes and season to taste.
By now, the rice should bloom and look like porridge. We enjoy a thick but not too thick porridge. You can add more water to thin it out if you like. Remove the remainder of the fish as well as ginger, onions, and shallots. Return the sauteed fish to the porridge and season to taste with salt or fish sauce.
Serve in soup bowls and garnish with green onions/cilantro, fried shallots, julienned ginger, and fresh cracked pepper. Top with fresh bean sprouts and enjoy!