Tried and tested. Twice this time! A year ago, spinach rice porridge with meatballs was added to my list of Asian home cook recipes. It is dead simple and power-up meal to make for family. The Chow family name it the Popeye's porridge. When I was young, Popeye the sailor man was one of the cartoon series I was hooked. Gone were the days when I binge watched Popeye's video tapes during school holidays, episode after episode. So Mummy Chow took the chance to name this rice porridge after Popeye and convinced us to each finish two bowls of spinach porridge which supposedly help us grow stronger and smarter like Popeye.
Her brilliance works. I actually believed what she said and asked for more than two with the urge to become stronger to wrestle with my dad. Imagine 5 people could finish 4 cups of white porridge! All in all this recipe has been stuck in my head for 20 years, and the second time making this pot of goodness was different than the original.
Instead of using Thai Jasmine Rice (which most Asian families consume as a staple), red rice was used to achieve a nutty flavour in the rice porridge. The unpolished grains is rich in fibre due to the bran, and it helps fight asthma (a problem I encountered in my late teens), reducing fine lines on the skin, firms up skin and minimise the damage brought on by our day to day exposure to UV rays. A natural anti-wrinkle remedy isn't it?
Oh, the final touch to this pipping hot porridge is the natural salt from 4 big heroes: century egg, salted eggs, braised peanuts and fried anchovies. They go beautifully well to sweeten the rice porridge, and there's no need extra seasoning was added to the porridge towards the end. Each of them has a distinctive fragrant and taste. Let any Asian do a blind taste test, they will identify them quickly, anytime. Also, I like my anchovies to be slightly on the dark brown side, with a charred taste but absolute crisp.
Staring at the sizzling rice porridge under over hot fire is one of the kitchen frustrations when the stomach starts shouting for attention. The stare down lasted for 20 seconds, just 20 seconds will do. With the risk that my tongue might get burn, I slurped the porridge gingerly and served myself the first bowl with a huge portion of fried anchovies.
* One trick to prevent yourself from a burning sensation on the tongue, simply use a porcelain spoon to scoop the corner of the porridge in a clockwise direction, the temperature is just right to taste this porridge without having to gently blow it. If there is any leftover, keep it in an air tight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Heat it up over high heat and the result is no less than before.
Ingredients ( serves 4)
- 1 cup red rice
- 2 salted egg
- 1 century egg
- 10 stalks Chinese round spinach
- 200g minced pork
- 1 can braised peanuts
- 3 tbsp ikan bilis (anchovies)
To marinade meatballs
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp white pepper
- 1 tsp corn flour
- Fried baby ikan bills (anchovies)
- For pork balls, combine the seasoning with the minced pork and mix it with a tablespoon to form a huge ball in a bowl. Slam the ball of minced pork 5 times to get the QQ texture. Cover the bowl with a cling wrap and refrigerate it for 20 minutes. Scoop 1 big teaspoon of meat and roll them to balls in between palms.
- Pluck spinach leaves and set side. Pluck away root of the spinach, and break the stem in three parts.
- To remove the clay and rice husk from the century egg, rub the surface off the egg in its plastic bag. The coating will break slowly and you’ll be able to see the white shell without making your hands dirty. Then, take the egg out of the bag and rub the surface gently while rinsing it under water till the clay has been fully removed.
- Gently crack the egg on the edge of a hard surface (a bowl, or the sink) and peel the shell.
- Repeat step 3 when handling salted eggs. Crack open salted eggs and separate yolks from egg white into 2 bowls. Cut salted yolks
- Slice century egg in small chunks and set aside.
- Pour red rice on a strainer and wash the grains thoroughly. Drain the grains, pour into a small stock pot and filled with it up with 6 cups of water. Set it to boil over medium heat for 20 minutes.
- Check the hardness of red rice after 20 minutes, if it is still hard and starts drying up, add another two cups of water and let it boil for another 10 minutes.
- While porridge is boiling, pour 2 tablespoons olive oil onto frying pan (sunny side up size) over medium heat for 1 minute. Add ikan bilis and fry for 5-7 minutes or until they turn golden brown and crispy.
- Once red rice has soften, add spinach stems and meatballs in the center. Scoop porridge on the outer corner inwards to cover pork balls and spinach. Close lid and let it simmer for 6-8 minutes.
- Open the lid and add spinach leaves, century egg and salted eggs. Add braised peanuts from the can only, dispose the sauce away. Turn down the heat and stir porridge gently to combine.
- When salted egg chunks have turned light orange, pour salted egg white to the porridge. Gently stir porridge for 30 seconds once the egg white swirls are formed. Turn off heat immediately.
- Serve porridge in bowls and sprinkle fried ikan bilis on top.