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  • Writer's pictureAlissa Love

Fish Porridge with Handmade Fishballs

Updated: Feb 6, 2020

Porridge is healthy, wholesome, comforting and not to mention extremely economical - just a cup of rice is used to make an entire pot of porridge enough for an entire family of 6! Oh and did I mention delicious? YES it is de-li-cious!

There are of course many variations to fish porridge - whether it's Teochew that's more akin to fish soup on rice, or Cantonese where the rice is cooked through and broken down into a thick paste. Either way, porridge is comfort food like none other and I urge you to try this recipe for yourself.

As with all Chinese cooking, the secret is in the process, and I find it extremely calming to cook this dish. There may be quite a number of steps and ingredients but all you really need for this humble dish is rice, fresh fish and lots of patience!

Recipe serves 4 - 5 people. 10 mins prep time, total cook time approximately 60 mins.


For the handmade fishballs

600g whole fish - mackerel, wolf herring or snapper

1 tablespoon pounded garlic and ginger paste

1 tablespoon cornflour

2 sprigs chopped coriander

2 chopped chili padi (optional)

Salt & pepper to taste

For the fish stock

Fish bones

3 whole garlics

2cm knob of ginger

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1 cinnamon stick

Star anise, cloves, cardamon

1 tablespoon fish sauce

Salt & pepper to taste

For the porridge

1 cup rice, rinsed

7 cups fish stock

For the garnish

Sliced chili padi

Fresh ginger, finely chopped into matchsticks

Coriander, chopped

Fried shallots

Soy sauce

Sesame oil

Ground pepper



For the handmade fishballs

1. Using a spoon, scrape the flesh off the fish, going with the grain and in the direction of the bones. Be careful to feel for any bones and remove them accordingly.

2. Chop the fish roughly on a wooden board. If you prefer a smoother consistency, pass through a mincer or food processor. Personally, I prefer the fishballs to have a rougher consistency, so that I have bites of whole fish in every bite.

3. In a medium bowl, mix the fish flesh, garlic and ginger paste, cornflour, coriander and chili padi with your fingers. Add salt & pepper to taste.

4. Using well oiled fingers, form balls with the fish paste, and drop them gently into a bowl of cold water. Set aside until needed.

For the fish stock

1. In a medium pot over medium heat, heat up a tablespoon of olive oil. Add in 3 whole garlic cloves, whole ginger, 1 cinnamon stick, star anise, cloves and cardamon. Stir for 1 minute or until the aromas of the spices is released.

2. Add in the leftover fish bones from the fishball. Stir gently until slightly browned.

3. Add in 1 liter of water and 1 tablespoon fish sauce. Salt & pepper to taste. You can add as much water as you like here, just be sure to season to taste along the way. It's good to keep in mind that the longer the stock is simmering, the more the stock reduces, creating a more intense the fish flavor.

4. Once you are happy with the taste of the stock, switch off the heat and set aside.

For the porridge

1. In a medium pot, add in 1 cup of rice and 7 cups of fish stock.

2. Simmer on low heat for 45 - 60 minutes, coming back every 5 minutes to stir. Salt & pepper to taste. The longer the porridge is left to simmer, the more it breaks down creating a thicker consistency. Adjust this step to your desired consistency, and keep adding more stock if needed.

3. When the porridge is 3/4 done, gently stir in the fishballs. It will cook in about 3 minutes.

4. Garnish and serve warm! You can even break a raw egg into the porridge, which will slowly cook with the heat.



1. For the fishballs, you can add more cornflour in the mixture if you prefer a springier end product. I personally love that it's still got it's original meaty bite!

2. For the stock, I like to cook up a big batch and keep it in the fridge. It's a healthier option to ready-made stock cubes and remains fresh in the fridge for 2 weeks - longer if you freeze it!

3. For the porridge, keep in mind that the stock measurements are only an approximate. From experience, I usually end up scooping cups of fish stock along the way, until I get the consistency that I am happy with - I prefer thick porridge where the rice grains are broken down and mushy.

4. Instead of fish balls, you can also add fish slices for this dish. If you would like a chicken/pork porridge, I'd recommend lightly stir frying the meat first, so that it is nicely seasoned in the porridge.

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