Bubur - The Breakfast Delight: Indonesia

by Barrie on June 30, 2006

by Barrie | June 30th, 2006  

Go into any restaurant or warung in Indonesia, pick up the menu and you are guaranteed to see Bubur on the list. I love Bubur Ayam or chicken porridge.

When I was first started going out with Candika I was introduced to this delightful dish at a roadside stall in Yogyakarta. Being rather partial to Bacon & Eggs followed by fruit and a nice cup of black tea for brekkie, the mere though of porridge for breakfast and especially with chicken, repulsed me. But, being adventurous as I am, I tried it and have been eating it ever since.

Bubur is cooked in many ways across the archipelago with varying tastes and although I have yet to try all of them, I have something to look forward to as epicurean Suryatini N. Ganie explains:

Soft and flavorful porridge

Some people say it's baby food and others comment "What to do, nasi sudah menjadi bubur" (the rice has already become porridge) - meaning it is hopeless because something has been done entirely wrong with disastrous results. In other words because of too much water steamed rice has turned into porridge and is thus no longer fit to serve with side dishes.

Still others are crazy about it. What is it? I am speaking about rice porridge or bubur in Bahasa Indonesia.

I like bubur which is one of the most popular ways to prepare our main staple, rice, and the dish has many variations to offer.

Bubur can be made very nutritious and many people eat it at breakfast cooked in chicken broth and served with condiments like shredded chicken, chopped celery and crispy fried shallot slices.

Many are of the opinion that this bubur ayam (chicken porridge) has a strong Chinese culinary overtone. It may be so but I think rice porridge is made wherever rice is a staple. It is the cooking technique that makes one porridge different from another.

Bubur made the Chinese way has the consistency of a thick broth because the rice is nearly mashed whereas Indonesians use to make the bubur thick with a minimum of liquid left. In many regions such thick rice porridge is served for the breaking of the fast during the holy month of Ramadhan with specific side dishes. Take the bubur called kanji rumbi from Aceh, a porridge cooked in a broth of chicken and shrimp and several spices. The bubur is meant to restore one's energy after a day of fasting.

A traditional bubur is made on the 10th day of the month of Muharam or Suro according to Javanese Islam. It is called bubur Suro and is a rather thick porridge served with chicken curry sauce called opor ayam and a handful of delima, or pomegranates. While in Sukabumi, a verdant town in West Java, bubur ayam is served in the early evening after a hard day's work, with curry sauce and a topping of red crispy, crushed crackers.

In the melting pot of Jakarta, fish porridge is served in Glodok, the famed old town where delicious food with Chinese influences can be tasted. Making fish porridge or bubur ikan, requires some cooking knowledge though because the fish meat should be tender but not overcooked.

For people who prefer it sweet there are many bubur varieties aside from those made from rice. In Central Maluku they make a sweet porridge from sago while East Java has bubur made from sweet potatoes and Jakarta has bubur ketan hitam, porridge made from black glutinous rice. And Madura, a small island off Java, has bubur kacang hijau, porridge made from mung beans, while bubur sumsum hunkue, a porridge made from mung bean flour, hails from South Sumatra.

A sweet bubur that restores energy is bubur sumsum from Central Java, made from rice flour and served with a sauce of thick melted brown sugar from the round aren palm variety and screwpine leaves. Bubur sumsum is presented after a wedding feast to which all members of an extended family gave a helping hand.

Nowadays bubur sumsum is the basic for many culinary creations like the one with scraped young coconut.

White glutinous rice flour is also made into bubur, but in this case the flour is shaped into marble-sized balls then boiled. The same procedure of mashing and forming into balls is made too from steamed red sweet potatoes or ubi merah. It is mashed while hot and tapioca or corn flour measuring two-thirds the weight of the mashed sweet potato is added to give the balls a chewy texture.

How to make the balls? Just take a small teaspoonful of the dough and form a ball with your hands. Drop into boiling water and when it floats the balls are tender and done. Strain and put in cold water to prevent sticking. To serve, put some balls into a glass or bowl and pour cold sweet coconut sauce over it.

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