Saturday, October 10, 2009

Teochew Mue: Porridge or Rice Soup?

Fish Porridge, Omelette, and Vegetable Juice

This dish has a bit of a history with me. The first time I ordered it a couple of years back, I was told that it was "fish porridge." I naturally assumed that it was going to be a nice and sludgy Cantonese congee. I was thus sorely disappointed when I found notably discernable grains of rice sitting in a clear broth, thinking that the chef was so lazy that he merely threw soup and rice together at the last minute rather than properly letting the rice steep.

Only until later did I realize that this was intentional, as this was the Teochew version of the stuff. Known as mue, this was really more of a rice soup rather than congee. And I've grown to like it so much that tonight I got a bowl from Hock Heng Fish Soup (Stall 8 at Zion Riverside Food Centre). I liked the garnishes that he added - and I pretty much would have just dumped my rice into the soup anyway (kinda like how some Korean soups are eaten) had I gotten the normal fish soup instead.

But one thing still confuses me a bit. There is a local dish often referred to as Teochew Porridge, which is a bunch of various cooked dishes paired with a bland and mushy rice gruel. It is completely unlike this mue stuff, which I understand to be known as "fish porridge" instead, even though it's technically also Teochew. To me, it is clearly rice soup rather than porridge, but at least I now appreciate it a lot more than I used to.


Fresh Fry aka 福星 said...

the teochew rice porridge tat comes with small dishes of sides of your choice are traditionally for mornings in the ancient past for farmers to have the energy to go into the fields for their day.

traditional teochew porridge had saltier sides than wat we have now 'cos people in the past are mostly very poor, they'd have more preserved food or saltier sides so they'd eat more of the porridge so as to last them into lunch.

the rice soup (aka "mue") is a 1-dish meal made of fresh fish slices in fish-chicken stock, and traditionally not for breakfast due to the lack of variety of sides.


Anonymous said...

The teochews like their porridge with lotsa "umm" (the gravy/soup thing which goes with the "porridge") :D

Anonymous said...

this "fish porridge" thing is what we call "h'r mue". my mom's version lies somewhere between the rice-and-soup foodcourt versions and the mushy traditional "mue".

"mue" just means rice gruel, and "h'r" (or hur) means fish.

that is why it is not incorrect to call that plain rice gruel that you have with dishes "mue".

both are teochew, and both are "mue"s.

Pete said...

Both are Teochew in origin. The meal-in-one-bowl meal, i.e. distinct rice grains covered in a soup (usually fish stock) is very typically Teochew. The Teochews are the majority ethnic-Chinese group in Thailand, which is why the Thai "khao tom" breakfast dish is essentially Teochew porridge (with fish sauce/nam pla & sugar added, if preferred).

Teochew white porridge, served with many side-dishes, is a separate kind of meal altogether, but is of Teochew origins nonetheless.

bma said...

Ah yes - that explains this thing I ate a long time ago in Thailand.

I can only assume that lei cha fan and ochazuke developed on their own though, as did the Korean practice.