Much like chicken noodle soup is the ultimate convalescence food for Americans, throughout Asia moi/jook/congee/budur is a dish that is inextricably associated with being sick. As a child, its characteristic blandness always seemed like an additional punishment to the misery of feeling unwell – especially when it was being forced upon you by an otherwise well-meaning grandmother. The moment you announced you were feeling under the weather, my grandmother (Amah) would invariably say, “You sick, ah? OK so you must eat moi ‘eh. Good for your throat one. Make you better, fast”. There was simply no arguing with Amah on this, you were on the moi diet until you were deemed healthy enough to eat something else. Admittedly, I was an overly dramatic child, but it felt like flavour purgatory!
Now, many years on and much to my surprise, in my most fevered moments I find myself craving a wholesome bowl of chicken moi. It is an irony of a maturing palette, and the fondness of memories, that gives you a renewed appreciation for some unpalatable dishes from the our past.
I’ve always thought the force-feeding of moi was a genius Asian parenting ploy to discourage kids from dragging out their convalescence. The moment I felt better I would immediately pronounce that I was cured and that it was safe for me to once again scoff down some deliciously oily char kway teow! The Moi Diet: Machiavellian parenting at its best or a grandmother’s love? Either way, Amah was right – it DID make me better, faster.
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FOR THE PORRIDGE:
- 200g short-grain rice (you can use jasmine rice)
- 2.25 litres Chinese chicken stock (see recipe below)
CHINESE CHICKEN STOCK:
- 1 medium sized chicken (preferably one with extra skin around the neck area)
- 4 litres cold water
- 1 cup shao hsing rice wine (or as much as you can spare, an extra half a cup won’t hurt!)
- 8 green spring onions, trimmed
- 12 garlic cloves, crushed
- 12 slices of ginger shards
- 4 tbsp. sea salt flakes
NOTE: a whole chicken may seem extravagant for a stock but it can be used for Hainanese Chicken Rice, so really this is virtually two meals in one
- Spring onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
- Reserved garlic cloves and ginger from the chicken stock, thinly sliced
- Shredded chicken meat from the chicken stock
- A drizzle of sweet thick soya sauce and light soya sauce
- A dash of sesame oil
- Ground white pepper
- Thai chilli-jam (Nam Prik Pao)
- Plain roasted peanuts, skinned
- Chinese fried dough sticks (chak-way)
- Deep fried wonton wrappers
- Toasted sesame seeds
- Start by placing all the ingredients (except the chicken) into a stockpot that can comfortably accommodate the chicken later.
- Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Let it bubble away for 15 minutes to allow the flavors to mingle.
- Increase the heat and return to a soft boil. Lower the chicken, breast-side down, into the stock. Make sure the chicken is fully submerged; if not, add hot water to cover.
- Immediately adjust the heat lower so that there is no more than an occasional ripple across the surface. Maintain the temperature so that the stock does not pass the simmering point again.
- Poach in the stock for exactly 14 minutes.
- Once the poaching is done, take the pot off the heat, cover and allow the chicken to steep in the hot stock for 3 hours at room temperature to complete the cooking process.
- Using tongs carefully remove the chicken and allow to cool.
- Shred some of the chicken meat for the moi and reserve the rest of the chicken for Hainanese Chicken Rice.
- Reserve the stock for the next stage of the recipe. Any leftover stock can be kept in the fridge as it can also be used for Hainanese Chicken Rice.
- Wash rice and then drain in a colander. Place the rice in a casserole, saucepan or rice-cooker (with congee mode)
- Add the stock and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook gently for about 2 hours. If using a rice-cooker simply select the congee mode. Stir occasionally.
- You will know when the porridge is done once the rice grains lose their shape and melt into the porridge.
Serve hot in individual bowls with the toppings on the side. Add toppings to your own taste and mood.