I attended the Hungry Planet: What the World Eats grand opening at the Burke Museum. I was totally awestruck by the large photographic exhibit and printed information from Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio who show us how the rest of the world eats and feeds their families with one week of purchased food supplies. “A picture said a thousand words” and I hope that you will have a chance to view the exhibition which will be at the museum through June 10.
On Saturdays, PCC Cooks also participates in the exhibition by providing a cooking demonstration of one of eight different cuisines from around the world. I had the honor of representing PCC Cooks one Saturday by preparing Kao Tom Gai, Rice Soup with Chicken. I demonstrated how to prepare this Thai dish and provided samples. When I was growing up in Thailand this particular dish meant so much to me and the rest of the country. It was a time when families had to nourish their families with simple, healthy foods.
I was lucky to grow up in the land of plenty in Phuket, Thailand. My village has a mountain on one side and a rice field on the other. The Srisunthorn Road was on the edge of the mountain and our home was just off this main road. We spent our weekends gathering foods from the forest such as bamboo shoots, mushrooms and other edible plants. Our family also owned a plantation which provided an abundance of fruits such as rambotant, durian, jackfruit and coconut. At the end of each month, or after each sale of a crop from the plantation, my grandmother made sure to purchase a month’s supply of rice and to stock up on all stable dry ingredients. Mobile markets would came every morning with meats, seafood and fresh vegetables and herbs. The open air market was full of venders of all sorts and once a week villagers could fill up their kitchen cabinets with food. In our family, when my grandmother was the treasurer of the household, she decided what was on the table on a daily basis, through times of abundance and scarcity.
My grandma shared many bedtime stories with us about the lives of others or her experiences during economic down times. She taught us that every grain of rice should be eaten. Phuket is rich in tin, rubber and other natural resources, but when it came to rice production, we depended on supplies from the central part of Thailand–a supply that was affected by the economy, politics, and climate. When the price of rice increased, our regular steamed rice would change to rice porridge to make our supply last as long as possible.
One cup of rice grains yields about 3 cups of steamed rice or 4 cups of thick rice porridge which can be thinned down to make 6 cups of rice soup. Instead of making 3 servings, 1 cup of rice can be stretched to provide 6 servings.
The Hungry Planet exhibit is eye opening. It shows how the rest of the world eats, what is available to them, what they can afford, what they choose, and the limitations. I love the picture from Mali, Africa, which shows the ritual of a family sharing a rice porridge that is cooked with sour milk.
For me, rice porridge is a soul food, comfort food and a health food. It has a healing and nourishing element and it is suitable for everyone and every occasion.
Now that you have heard my stories, what is yours?
Rice Porridge Three Ways
I know three ways to enjoy rice porridge. The first one is as a rice soup base which can then be made into Kao Tom Gai
(Click photo above for Pranee’s Kao Tom Gai recipe)
A second way to enjoy rice porridge is to make a rice soup buffet for a big crowd or special event. To do this, take a rice porridge and add a little bit of ground meat. Cook it without adding flavoring, but serve it with condiments as shown in the photo below. The condiments typically consist of ginger, white pepper powder, sugar, soy sauce, chili powder, fried garlic, vinegar with jalapeno peppers and green onions.
A third way to eat rice porridge is to serve it the same way as steamed jasmine rice but ideally with Chinese-Thai style main dishes such as stir-fried vegetables with salted soy bean or oyster sauce, salted egg, salted peanut, pickled mustard green, or braised pork in five spices.
Kao Tom (Rice Porridge)
PREP TIME: 20 minutes
Yield: 4 cups1 cup jasmine rice 6 cups water
Bring jasmine rice and 2 cups of the water to a boil on high heat. Stir often while cooking for 5 minutes.
Add the remaining 4 cups of water and bring to a boil. Let cook on medium heat for 15 minutes more, until it yields 4 cups.
- Congee (speckless.wordpress.com)
- How to Cook Rice in Three Easy Steps (answers.com)
- Chicken Arroz Caldo or Chicken Rice Porridge (luckymom2009.wordpress.com)
- Burke Museum spotlights Coast Salish artists and the world’s food (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- imabonehead: How to Cook Congee with Salted Pork & Century Egg, a Classic Hong Kong Rice Porridge | Hong Kong Food Blog with Recipes, Cooking Tips mostly on Chinese and Asian styles | Taste Hong Kong (tastehongkong.com)