Test Kitchen - Teochew Porridge with Chai Poh (Salted Radish) Omelet

Our latest Test Kitchen ingredient was the wonderfully non-photogenic salted radish which is primarily used in Asian cooking. It is a radish or turnip that has been preserved in a mixture of sugar and salt and usually comes sold by the half pound in bags. I recall how often my mom would use it in just a handful of simple go-to dishes when I was growing up. I was unable to shake that from my mind though as I tried to figure out how to use the ingredient. Therefore, I resulted to some comfort food.

I tell people that I am Chinese but there are so many variations of it that if I had to be more specific, I'd tell you I was Teochew. As I get older, I am beginning to distinguish more and more what was Teochew in my childhood and what was a mash of cultures - one of those things was the porridge we'd eat. Teochew porridge is basically watery rice that is so bland (and made from only those two ingredients) that having something quite salty as the side dish was necessary. I would usually double or triple up the amount of porridge I'd have to the accompanying dish so each bite was balanced. Salted radish (aka chai poh) in an omelet was a solid regular in our meals so I decided it was time to recreate the dish. Luckily, it was easy!

Step 1: Ingredients (yields 4 servings)

  • 1 cup jasmine rice
  • 6-8 cups water
  • 4 oz salted radish, sliced
  • 6 large eggs, beaten
  • chopped chives, optional

Step 2: Prepping ingredients
In a 6-quart or larger saucepan, add rice and half the amount of water. Bring to a rolling boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Meanwhile, slice radish and soak in water for 10-15 minutes to rinse off excess salt. In another bowl, beat eggs together. Heat large pan with enough oil to coat the bottom.

Step 3: Finishing
Once the rice has absorbed all the water, it will likely still be recognizably granular. Add remaining water and let simmer until nearly all gone. Meanwhile, gently stir-fry radish in pan for 2-3 minutes before adding in all the egg and pushing done parts to let wet section cook. Once edges brown, fold over and flip just once to cook/steam insides. Serve with chive garnish if desired.

The next Test Kitchen: stone-ground white grits
I love grits. When I first had them in North Carolina a few years back, I instantly loved it. Some people might not because it seems bland to them but it really reminded me of the porridge I used to have at home. Grits themselves are just ground corn and are popular in the South despite being of Native American origin. It has the consistency of porridge once done right, and I have seen it in dishes such as Shrimp and Grits and alongside sumptuous breakfast foods. What should we do with it?

Photography by Duc Duong.