适耕庄潮式鲨鱼糜 Sekinchan Teochew Shark Porridge
适耕庄 Sekinchan is a small fishing town in Selangor, bordering Sebak Banam and Kuala Selangor. The Teochews were almongst the first group of Chinese to have settled here and took up fishing as their main trade and still continue to do so. Apart from selling their produce to neighbouring cities like Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur, one of the highlights in Sekinchan is their seafood processing industries, which transform the daily local catch into fish paste and shrimp paste which are then used to make fishballs, yong tau foo, fish noodles as well as prawn crackers. Needless to say, these fresh seafood also contribute to some interesting dishes which are unique to Sekinchan, one of which is the Sekinchan Teochew-Styled Shark Porridge.
Teochew cuisine 潮州菜 one of the branches of Cantonese cuisine 粤菜, is well known for the richness in the dishes. Seasoning is also usually “heavy handed” to the extent of being 大咸大甜 incredibly savory or sweet, pushing the palate sensations to the extremes. Teochew-styled Braised Duck 潮式卤水鸭 and Teochew Orh Nee 潮式芋泥 are just two classic examples. Pure indulgences which unfortunately cannot be enjoyed too frequently. However, the Teochew chefs seems to treat seafood in an altogether different manner, opting for very “light” approach towards them, using much less elaborated methods like steaming, poaching or in soups with very little else added. The fact is, very little else is needed as seafood which is fresh shines through their own natural, innate sweet and umami flavours, which these chefs are well aware of. Teochew Cold Crab 潮州冻蟹 is one such dish.
The use of shark may be unfamiliar to other aspects of Chinese cooking, but it it is used to make one of the signature dishes in classic Teochew cuisine 鲨鱼冻 Jellified Shark Meat. Supposedly evolved from 猪脚冻 Jellified Pig Trotters, 鲨鱼冻 uses the natural gelatin extracted through prolonged boiling of shark’s skin and cartilage-rich bones as a gelling agent for the shark meat. I will leave the 鲨鱼冻 details for another post but in short, the use of shark is not uncommon in Teochew cooking. So it is hardly surprising that shark’s meat is used in Sekinchan’s famous Teochew Shark Porridge.
Better known as “潮州糜” Teochew mue, porridge cooked Teochew-style is very unlike the Cantonese rendition. Teochew mue has a much higher water to rice ratio and yet, the rice remains grainy and intact instead of being cooked down to a mashy concoction like in Cantonese “congee”. And seafood is also the default condiment added. In other Teochew communities, Chinese or silver pomfret which is well-loved by the Teochews is used as the fish of choice. Batang is also commonly seen in Teochew Fish Porridge. But for the fishing folk in Sekinchan, shark is used instead, together with their locally produced fish balls and rice. Literally to reap (and eat) what they sow or in this case, catch…
适耕庄潮式鲨鱼糜 Sekinchan Teochew Shark Porridge Recipe (serves 4)
2 cups of long-grain rice
300g of shark meat
15-20 fish balls, depending on size
1 tbsp 冬菜 “Tung Choi” (cantonese) “Dang Cai” (Teochew), preserved chinese cabbage
4 slices of ginger, adjust to taste
1 tsp salt, adjust to taste
Ground white pepper, to taste
Chinese coriander and spring onions for garnishing
A dash of sesame oil (optional)
deep fried shallots (optional)
10 cups of water (2 cups for cooking rice, 8 cups for cooking porridge)
Mise en place
Rinse rice to get rid of excess starch until water runs clear. Cook rice in rice cooker.
While waiting for the rice to cook, prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Soak dang cai for 5 min and rinse to get rid of excess salt and set aside. Chop into smaller pieces if finer texture is desired.
Julienne ginger into thin strips and set aside. (I omitted this and kept the ginger as whole slices as while I like the heat and flavours of ginger in food, I do not particularly enjoy biting into them.)
Rinse spring onions and Chinese coriander leaves, chop coarsely and set aside.
Cut shark meat into thin slices and set aside.
Rinse fishballs quickly with some water and set aside.
In a large soup pot, pour 8 cups of water and bring to a boil.
Add dang cai, fish balls and ginger. Lower flame to medium low and allow to simmer for 10 min to form the soup base.
Add cooked rice into soup base and simmer for about 3-5 min or until the rice grains fluff up slightly from soaking in the soup but remains grainy.
Add shark meat and simmer for another 1 min for the meat to just cook.
Have a taste of the soup base and adjust with salt.
Ladle porridge into bowls for serving and garnish generously with spring onions and Chinese coriander.
Sprinkle ground pepper and serve immediately.
Salt is added last and the soup base must to be sampled first before adding. Dang cai and fish balls have salt added to them and are thus savory to begin with. So the 1 teaspoon of salt merely serves as a gauge. Kindly adjust according to personal preference and taste.
I’ve not watched sekinchan shark porridge being cooked so I’m not exactly sure on how the rice component is being prepared. Pre-cooking the rice before adding to the soup broth is a very common practice for Teochew Fish Porridge in food stalls as it saves a lot of time in the actual cooking of the porridge itself. I would think that it is pretty much the same for the restaurants and kedais serving it in Sekinchan. This also results in a much clearer soup base, characteristic of Teochew porridge. If preferred, the rice may also be cooked with water in the pot right from the start.
Sesame oil and deep fried shallots may not be used in Sekinchan Shark Porridge but I like them in my Teochew Fish Porridge so I’d added them as well but this is entirely optional and perhaps not entirely authentic. So long as it tastes good right?
I am submitting this post to Malaysian Food Fest Kuala Lumpur Selangor Month hosted by Shannon of Just As Delish
I am submitting this to Little Thumb’s Up “Ginger” event hosted by Alvin @ Chef and Sommelier.