I got the idea for this dish when my ex-colleague, Jim, who does not have a sweet tooth (seriously, you’ll never catch him eating anything sweet), told me one day that he sometimes likes to make oatmeal. I was surprised. “What? Oatmeal?! You don’t even like sweet stuff!” It turns out he makes a Chinese-style congee (savoury rice porridge popular in parts of Asia), substituting oatmeal for rice, and adding in meat and other ingredients. “You can cook oatmeal that way?” It seems like such a ludicrous question now, as if there were some kind of unwritten rule that oatmeal has to be sweetened. Not long after though, I made this for the first time, and it was like OMG, this is the best oatmeal!
When I made it again recently, my sister said savoury oatmeal is just weird. And in case some of you also think it’s strange to be eating oatmeal with anything other than honey or fruit, a quick search of the internet turned up a good number of recipes for savoury oatmeal. So there you go! But until you’ve tried it, you probably won’t be convinced that there are other tasty ways of enjoying your oatmeal.
I’ve never been a fan of Chinese congee. I especially dislike the plain, watery kind that is eaten with side dishes. I remember one time when I was a kid, my cousin’s nanny made some thick, meaty congee (it was for him, but my sisters and I sneaked into the kitchen and helped ourselves to some too), and I thought it was the yummiest congee ever. My mum, on rare occasions when she did make congee, would also make it the same way, which I loved. Oatmeal gives a similar thick and creamy consistency, and making it savoury reminds me of the kind of congee I used to enjoy.
This is really quick and simple comfort food. I used regular rolled oats, and the total cooking time was probably less than 15 minutes. Add in a few more minutes of prep, and you’ve got yourself a delicious meal in under 30 minutes. It doesn’t get any easier than this!
It’s such a versatile recipe too. You can add in whatever kind of meat you like, minced or sliced, and garnish with green onions, slivers of ginger, cilantro, or deep-fried crispy shallots or garlic. Drizzle with additional soy sauce, sesame oil, or spice it up with some chili or hot sauce.
SAVOURY OATMEAL (4-6 Servings)
2 cups regular rolled oats
5-1/2 cups water
300 grams ground chicken or pork
6 slices ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
finely chopped green onions, ginger, cilantro, deep-fried shallots/garlic
1) In a large pot, combine oats, water and ginger and bring to a boil.
2) Reduce heat and add in meat, breaking it up. Stir frequently and simmer until meat is cooked. (If the oatmeal gets too thick, add in more water to adjust the consistency to your liking).
3) Add salt, pepper, oyster sauce, soy sauce and sesame oil. Stir to mix well.
4) Remove from heat, ladle into bowls and top with choice of garnish.