Cheap & Good

Homey porridge at Xiang Ji warms the heart

Preserved vegetables add flavour to Xiang Ji's pork porridge.
Preserved vegetables add flavour to Xiang Ji's pork porridge.ST PHOTO: EUNICE QUEK

We may be into the hot season, but I cannot say no to a bowl of comforting porridge.

My preference is for thick, Cantonese-style congee, but I have also grown to love watery Teochew porridge.

The style of porridge at Xiang Ji Cooked Food in Yuhua Village Market & Food Centre gives me the best of both worlds. It is not quite a smooth paste like congee, but the rice grains are broken, resulting in a grainy texture.

Because it is well-seasoned, there is no need to add soya sauce or pepper. Each order is topped with spring onion and sliced youtiao (fried dough fritters). I would prefer my youtiao to be crispy, but since it is already in the porridge, I mix it in.

When stirring the porridge, I notice some preserved vegetables - key to adding more flavour to the bowl.

I order the pork porridge ($2.50), which comes with sliced lean pork and minced pork balls. The pork is tender and the pork balls remind me of the handmade ones my mother puts in her soups at home.

Shredded chicken porridge also costs $2.50, while the sliced fish and century-egg porridge options cost $3 each. Add 50 cents for an egg.

  • XIANG JI COOKED FOOD

  • 01-53 Yuhua Village Market & Food Centre, Block 254 Jurong East Street 24; open: 6 to 11am, 6 to 8pm (Tuesdays to Sundays). Closed on Mondays

    Rating: 3 stars

The porridge is the best blank canvas for these ingredients and the portion is quite generous.

I slurp my porridge together with many other diners - most of whom are elderly folk - in the hawker centre. Some are with friends, while others are with their children or grandchildren.

Call me sentimental, but the scene makes me feel nostalgic. I miss mornings like this with my mother, having a simple meal at the hawker centre after a trip to the wet market.

It makes the bowl of no-frills, unpretentious porridge that much more satisfying.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 25, 2018, with the headline 'Homey porridge warms the heart'. Print Edition | Subscribe