The Chicken Porridge Analogy
I was born in Medan. It’s a loud and vibrant place. It’s a place where everything seems so near where a 30-minute drive can take you to the edge of the city. It’s also a place of all sorts of ethnicities and cultures. Contrary to popular belief, it’s definitely not an absolute hub of Bataknese people. By that virtue, the food there is really varied and thus is the most important part of my itinerary every time I could visit. Some places are a must-go when I’m there, others are fine if I don’t get the opportunity.
One of the staples of a Medan trip for me is the chicken porridge. To be specific, it has to be the chicken porridge in Selat Panjang Street. This chicken porridge, in particular, is what I’d like to think of as the run-of-the-mill, typical Chinese Indonesian chicken porridge. The contents are rice porridge, shredded chicken, chopped scallions, and single egg yolk. That’s it. No crackers, no nuts, no sambals. It is often served with cakwe/youtiao, and people would usually order a plate of boiled chicken, which could come in a quarter or half sizes. For as long as I know, this is what you called chicken porridge. When I moved to Jakarta in 2001, every time the family wants to eat chicken porridge, we would travel to Mangga Besar from Cibubur because the chicken porridge in Mangga Besar is owned by the brother of the seller from Selat Panjang. Cibubur to Mangga Besar and back for chicken porridge. Some of you might think we’re crazy.
When I find out about the chicken porridge you people are having in this city and/or this island, I was quite shocked by how “impure” it was. There are so many toppings inside it, and so many debates on what toppings belong in a bowl of porridge. Then, there is that WHOLE situation on whether you mix your porridge or not. I’m team mix-your-porridge since the logic applied because of the sort of porridge that I’ve always known, where if you don’t mix, you won’t get the yolk to incorporate in the whole bowl. Anyway. The porridge you got here is weird. At first, I rejected the idea of it. It didn’t make sense to me to put that much stuff in what should be a simple and humble dish. It was sort of snobbish, but I guess that’s what happens when you only know one form of a thing your whole life.
After a while, I did manage to try the porridge variety you have here. It took a few tries for me to like it. If both bowls are present in front of me and I have to choose one, I’d choose the “classic” chicken porridge in a heartbeat, but it doesn’t mean that I loathe the other one with every fiber of my being.
Thank you for reading, trust no one, and see you on the next post.