Food Picks: Xian Ji Porridge moves to a new location, Canchita has a new vegetarian menu

(Clockwise from top left) Mixed offal porridge, sliced fish porridge, pork and century egg porridge and chicken and cuttlefish porridge from Xian Ji. ST PHOTO: HEDY KHOO
Causa Verde is one of the new items on Canchita Peruvian Cuisine's newly launched vegetarian menu. ST PHOTO: HEDY KHOO

Xian Ji Porridge moves to Jalan Bukit Merah

Operating in Tiong Bahru since 1989, Xian Ji Porridge has moved from Eng Hoon Street to a coffee shop at 107 Jalan Bukit Merah. It started operations at its new location on Oct 1.

Stall owners Albert Soon, 80, and Juliet Cheah, 70, have not raised their prices, despite the increase in overheads.

Apart from pork porridge priced at $5 a bowl, prices start at $6 a bowl.

Century egg is available as an add-on at $1 each. Eggs are $0.50 each. I recommend adding watercress ($0.50) because it adds colour and a slight peppery flavour to the porridge.

My favourite item is the pork and century egg porridge with an add-on of watercress ($6.50).

Pork and century egg porridge and sliced fish porridge at Xian Ji Porridge. ST PHOTO: HEDY KHOO

You get a whiff of dried flatfish before you bite into the flavoursome minced pork rolled in balls in the porridge. The sweetness of the fresh pork is evident underneath the savoury seasoning.

Prices may seem a tad steep for porridge at a coffee shop, but you get good value for money as the married couple use fresh ingredients, and the porridge is cooked using a meat bone broth that is prepared from fresh trotter bones, ikan bilis and soya beans every morning.

The flatfish costs about $30 a kg and Madam Cheah deep fries it, instead of using ready-made powdered flatfish.

Once a week, she peels and slices shallots to prepare shallot oil for marinating her rice grains – a secret to her tasty porridge.

From Tuesdays to Sundays, the couple wake up at 2.30am to purchase fresh giant snakehead from the wet market at Chinatown Complex, before heading to Tiong Bahru Market to buy vegetables and fresh pork.

Madam Cheah is so fanatical about using the freshest ingredients possible that she handpicks everything – from the cuts of pork collar, which she watches the butcher grind into minced meat, to selecting individual stalks of spring onion.

She uses watercress from Hong Kong, which is less fibrous.

The sliced fish porridge with an add-on of watercress is $7. The fresh slices of giant snakehead are not marinated, yet they do not have a fishy odour. Each slice is tender with a slightly bouncy texture.

Sliced fish porridge at Xian Ji Porridge. ST PHOTO: HEDY KHOO

Offal lovers have to try the mixed offal porridge with an add-on of watercress ($6.50). Madam Cheah takes care to not overcook the liver. The powder intestines are tender, springy and deliciously free of any meaty odours too.

Mixed offal porridge at Xian Ji Porridge. ST PHOTO: HEDY KHOO

The chicken and cuttlefish porridge with watercress ($6.50) is also popular. Mr Soon puts so much care into preparing the ingredients, the cuttlefish is sliced evenly into generous strips.

Chicken and cuttlefish porridge at Xian Ji Porridge. ST PHOTO: HEDY KHOO

Madam Cheah says: “People think that our business is roaring because our porridge gets sold out quickly, but it is because we cook a small batch every morning. We are semi-retired and want to sell enough porridge just to cover our operational costs and daily expenses.”

The best time to enjoy the porridge is from 7.30 to 8am, as that is when the porridge reaches optimal thickness, she says.

Since opening at their new location, the couple now prepare a slightly larger quantity of porridge to cater for regulars who visit them. But it can still get sold out by about 9am. The queue builds up quickly after 8am, especially on weekends. Go early to avoid disappointment.

Where: Stall 4, 01-821, Block 107 Jalan Bukit Merah
MRT: Tiong Bahru
Open: Tuesdays to Sundays, 7 to 10.30am or till sold out. Closed on Mondays

Canchita Peruvian Cuisine launches a vegetarian menu

Instead of picking out vegetarian options from the a la carte menu, diners at Canchita Peruvian Cuisine can now choose from the restaurant’s vegetarian menu, which has 23 items.

Launched on Oct 1, the vegetarian menu includes existing favourites such as the Solterito ($16++), a Peruvian salad of fava beans, tomatoes, fresh cheese, kalamata olives, avocado puree and crunchy fried quinoa.

Solterito at Canchita Peruvian Cuisine. ST PHOTO: HEDY KHOO

The new menu also showcases vegetarian takes on the restaurant’s ceviche and the potato-based causa.

The Causa Verde ($26++), a layered potato casserole made with Peruvian yellow chilli, sliced avocado, fava beans, tomatoes, onion, fresh cheese, olives and parsley mayonnaise, offers a pretty play of colours and textures, from the crispy garnish of golden-brown fried shredded potato to the creamy mashed potato and sliced avocado.

Causa Verde at Canchita Peruvian Cuisine. ST PHOTO: HEDY KHOO

Plant-based prawns and calamari feature in the Ceviche Marinero ($26++), a tangy dish with sparkling Tiger’s Milk – a Peruvian citrusy marinade made with lime juice, ginger, garlic and onion. The restaurant adds sparkling water to the mix. The plant-based seafood has a firm, bouncy texture and tastes similar to Japanese fish cake. The dish comes with plantain chips.

Ceviche Marinero features plant-based seafood. ST PHOTO: HEDY KHOO

For tacos, go for the Roasted Cauliflower Taco  ($24++). The chunks of roasted cauliflower have a meaty texture, accompanied by bean puree, spicy slices of jalapeno chilli and tangy pico de gallo. The taco comes with fresh lime wedges and three hot sauces on the side – housemade roasted habanero peppers with pineapple, a hot red creamy reduction of blended chilli padi and chipotle mayo.

Roasted Cauliflower Taco at Canchita Peruvian Cuisine. ST PHOTO: HEDY KHOO

Canchita also does a vegetable stir-fry called Spring Veggie Saltado ($32++). The smoky sweet aroma of caramelised dark soya sauce and red wine vinegar hits the nose, even before you take a bite. The dish is a medley of eggplant, cauliflower, king oyster mushroom, baby corn and asparagus on a bed of thick-cut fries. The vegetables have crunch and bite. 

Spring Veggie Saltado is a vegetable stir-fry with dark soya sauce. ST PHOTO: HEDY KHOO

The restaurant has also come up with a selection of mocktails. Go for the Chicamorada ($12++). The drink is a rich deep purple from the use of purple corn powder imported from Peru.

Chicamorada is a mocktail made using purple corn at Canchita Peruvian Cuisine. ST PHOTO: HEDY KHOO

The purple corn powder is cooked with green apple and pineapple juice, and spiced up with a touch of cinnamon. Freshly squeezed lemon juice and a little sugar syrup are added to the drink just before it is served. The drink is an option for those who want a non-alcoholic beverage that tickles the palate without being overwhelmingly sweet. 

Where: Canchita Peruvian Cuisine, Blocks 9A & 9B Dempsey Road
MRT: Queenstown
Open: Mondays to Wednesdays, 5.30 to 11pm, Thursdays to Sundays, 11.30am to 3pm, 5.30 to 11pm

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