My friend K introduced me to the pleasures of rice porridge – not quite Chinese congee but a texture more like Italian polenta or Indian upma. I’m always on the lookout for non-traditional savoury breakfasts because I don’t like eggs so most of the savoury breakfast world is closed to me. I love Asian breakfasts, of course, because I don’t like the blandness of most western morning foods and I don’t have any qualms about breaking out the chilies first thing in the morning. That said, this dish is endlessly variable, and if you don’t want spicy food first thing, you can easily modify the dressing to be more sedate. I’ve used my leftover red curry paste but you could use nam prik pow, chili paste or just skip the chilies altogether.

The first trick is to find your rice polenta. If you live in the US, the best kind is Red Mill rice farina, which has a lovely nuttiness because it’s made with brown rice. In the UK, I’ve found brown rice polenta impossible to come by, but Indian stores sell the white rice variety, often labelled ground rice. You don’t want it to look like flour but more like polenta or cornmeal.

Asian mushroom rice porridge

  • 1 cup rice polenta
  • 6 shiitake mushrooms or 1 portabella
  • 3 spring onions
  • a handful of cilantro
  • 1 tsp¬† chili paste
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tbsp sweet soy sauce
  • vegetable oil for frying

First make your dressing. Mix light and sweet soy, sesame oil, and rice vinegar and emulsify with a fork. You can add some sriracha to this for added heat.

Slice the shiitakes or, if using portabella mushroom, cut into small cubes. Heat a little oil in a non-stick frying pan and, if using chili paste, fry it for a minute. Add the mushrooms and fry till browned all over. Meanwhile, slice the spring onions and pick cilantro leaves.

To cook the rice porridge, boil 3 cups of water and then add 1 cup of porridge. Lower the heat and stir. White rice porridge will cook in just a minute while brown rice will take about 5 minutes. Either way, stir constantly and taste for doneness. You want it to be soft but to retain a little grainy texture. It shouldn’t be totally mushy.

To serve, top porridge with mushrooms, spring onions, and cilantro and spoon over a few teaspoons of dressing.