Makansutra: Cantonese porridge doesn't get more comforting than this
Weng Kiang Kee Porridge's servings will warm your stomach and your heart
There are days when you don't feel like eating anything even when you are hungry.
You have this notion that nothing much will please you, and that's when you turn to comfort food.
Such dishes are usually not photogenic but will lift your day - for a few hours at least.
Some may turn to a good old cheeseburger, a warm bowl of soto ayam or kway teow soup, Teochew porridge with basic items like braised tofu and salted mustard leaves, or a platter of rice slathered with a ladle of good dhal curry.
Then there's the uber-comforting Cantonese porridge.
Some 15 years ago, Makansutra rated Joe Pork Porridge as the top in the game.
It came rich, thick and smooth, and the slices of fish or pork offal over it was stuff you had to have on a regular basis.
Joe retired some years back, sold his business to a Chinese PR and things were not quite the same, and it eventually shuttered last year.
In honour of Joe's porridge, Charlie Chang, a hardcore weekly regular back in the day who sought comfort in a bowl of offal porridge with some dough fritters and a cup of kopi-o, waited patiently for that same stall at Chinatown Food Complex to be vacant, successfully bid for it and began selling porridge himself.
Charlie is not just any customer though. He had chef stints in hotels like Raffles, Crown Prince, Oriental, Fullerton and even at an Asian restaurant group in Miami and Beijing.
With more than 30 years of experience in the kitchen, he set up Weng Kiang Kee Porridge with his wife Philomena and partner Stephen Sim.
"I wanted to preserve this food culture," Charlie said. But it is tough even for a veteran chef like him. "The hours are long and the customers are demanding."
Once, an old lady gave him a shelling because he opened half an hour later than usual. He just smiled and gave her some extra toppings.
His Premium Porridge ($5) comes with 10 ingredients - lean pork, minced pork balls, sang cheong (fallopian tubes), small intestines, cuttlefish, fish, abalone, century egg, liver and kidney slices.
It is a mouthful in so many ways and he is easy on the salt - so you can splash on more soy sauce over that thick and smooth porridge made with premium Jasmine rice.
In the Boat Porridge ($3.50), you'll find a moreish mess of pork, fish and cuttlefish.
You will notice Charlie's expertise just by looking at his two self-fashioned pots of base porridge - it is a giant gas-fired rice cooker modified with aluminium extensions to circulate heat better and faster.
I also like his Triple Egg Porridge ($3.50) with century, fried and salted egg. Just shoot puffs of white pepper and some soy sauce over it and suddenly the day won't feel so bad.
Charlie whispered to me: "I saw your SG50 Deliciously Singapore YouTube video on making bak kut teh porridge. Can I have your permission to offer it here?"
You betcha, and no permission needed. I did not mean for that recipe to be a secret. Boil away Charlie, and say when.
Weng Kiang Kee Porridge
#02-082, Chinatown Food Complex
Opens 7am to 2pm, closed on Mondays