When asked to describe her breakfast to the class, a young Kim Thuy obliges: soup, vermicelli or rice, pork. Teacher, Marie-France, is convinced there must be some mistake, some misunderstanding. No no. Breakfast, “She asked me more than once, miming waking up, rubbing her eyes and stretching” (106).
The classroom: that space in which normalizing lessons on what is good or good for you are dispensed, against which writers test the lived realities of their fictional or non-fictional pupils.
Thuy’s breakfast is a tale of acculturation, a shift away from soup and rice toward some less noteworthy morning meal.
I sat with this passage a while, trying out recipes here and there, getting advice from a couple of generous and food-savvy friends. Below are the results of this foray into ginger and scallions and garlic for breakfast, for champions in the making.
Velvety Chicken Rice Soup with Ginger
from The Best of Vietnamese & Thai Cooking: Favorite Recipes from Lemon Grass Restaurant and Cafes.
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 cup rice, preferably jasmine
- 6 cups homemade unsalted or canned low sodium chicken stock
- ½ pound skinless, boneless chicken breast cubed
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon ginger, thinly sliced
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal, for garnish
- 10 fresh cilantro sprigs, chopped, for garnish
- Ground white pepper for garnish
Heat the oil and garlic in a small soup pot over moderate heat. Add the rice and toss around in the pot until rice turns white and opaque, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and bring to gentle boil. Reduce heat and simmer until rice has expanded and soup is velvety, about 20 minutes. Add the chicken, salt and ginger and simmer for another 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Transfer to individual serving bowls and garnish with scallions, cilantro, and white pepper.
Congee With Minced Pork and Crispy Shallots Recipe
- 1 cup rice
- 6 cups homemade or store-bought low sodium chicken stock
- 1 inch piece ginger, sliced thick
- 1 to 2 cups water
- Kosher salt
- 4 shallots, sliced into thin rings
- 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 8 ounces ground pork
- 1 bunch green onions, sliced for garnish
- White pepper to taste
- In heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat, bring rice, chicken broth, ginger, and 1 teaspoon salt to simmer. Reduce heat to low and gently simmer, stirring and gently mashing occasionally, until rice is softened, broken down, and mixture is creamy and the consistency of porridge, 60 to 75 minutes. Add water to adjust consistency as it cooks.
- While rice is cooking, prepare the shallots and pork. In skillet, heat oil with shallots over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until shallots are golden and crispy, about 5 minutes, adjusting heat so the shallots don’t burn. Pour the shallots and oil into a bowl.
- In same unwashed skillet, cook pork with 1/4 teaspoon salt over medium heat until cooked through and browned, breaking up the pork into small pieces as it cooks, about 4 minutes.
- When porridge is ready, stir in pork and season to taste with salt. Ladle into bowls and top with shallots (and shallot oil to taste) and green onions. Sprinkle with white pepper to taste.
Mai, Pham. The Best of Vietnamese & Thai Cooking: Favorite Recipes from Lemon Grass Restaurant and Cafes. Rocklin, CA: Prima Pub, 1996. Print.
Ruperti, Yvonne. “Congee (Rice Porridge) with Minced Pork and Crispy Shallots Recipe.” Serious Eats. September 20 2016. Web.
Thuy, Kim. Ru. Translated by Sheila Fischman. Toronto: Random House Canada, 2012. Print.
Photos and Text by Alexia Moyer (unless otherwise indicated). With special thanks to Lilianne Dang and Phuong Dam for their insight and boundless enthusiasm for deliciousness.