Porridge is a culinary — dare I say it?– phenomenon across many a culture, but the flavors can be all over the board. At it plainest, Western porridge is boiled grain, with water or milk. However, Asian countries make their porridge (or “gruel,” as it is most often translated from Japanese) using rice. Therefore, at its purest, Japanese gruel is simply a boiled rice soup. Luckily for those of us liking a little more flavor in our lives, there are enticing variations on the theme.
Fugu zousui, or “fugu (pufferfish) gruel” starts by boiling the rice not in plain water, but in soup stock leftover from making fugu nabe, which is a hot pot type of dish. This soup stock is rich in collagen, which is reputed to have many health benefits. It’s also rich in flavor, which promises to bring more immediate benefits to your palate.
Once the rice has boiled up nicely in the fugu stock, it’s time to liven up the party even a bit more. Some baseline flavor enhancing comes the gruel’s way via salt and ponzu, a slightly tangy, citrus infused soy sauce. A further natural accompaniment to a dish like this is egg. The egg is beaten and mixed in raw, but quickly cooks up in the simmering soup. Overcooked egg is a real drag, so the egg is only to be added at the very end! Speaking of which, the very end is when you should sprinkle some chopped green onion on top for that wee bit of a kick.
Fugu zousui is often served as part of a course, usually at the end, since that is when you want to fill up with a hearty, rice soup. However, it can also easily be prepared the day after a fugu meal. Simple refrigerate the soup you used to boil the fugu in, then heat it up the next day and make the zousui. It’s a rich, luxurious “porridge” that is most likely nothing like you grew up with!
Looking to try fugu nabe and zousui in Tokyo?
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