How to Build a Porridge Bowl Like Minh Phan

By Amelia Schwartz | Will Blunt

By

Amelia Schwartz
Will Blunt
Chef Minh Phan's Brown Butter and Heirloom Squash Porridge
Chef Minh Phan's Brown Butter and Heirloom Squash Porridge

Six and a half years ago, the late Jonathan Gold spread the word about Porridge + Puffs, Chef Minh Phan’s dreamy, casual restaurant in Historic Filipinotown. “I spent [the next] six and a half years explaining to people what porridge is and that it’s the best food,” Phan says. “[Now that] a good portion of L.A. understands what it is, there is a demand for it.” Since the pandemic, she has collaborated with other chefs to build their own versions. Inspired by Phan’s signature velvet porridge, here’s our guide to building the best possible porridge bowl.

 

Start with a porridge or pottage:

The key to Phan’s porridge/pottage base is a creamy, silky texture resembling a soft risotto. The velvet porridge is composed of brown butter, a splash of coconut milk, and a variety of roasted, heirloom squashes: blue hubbard, butternut, kabocha—whatever is in season will work. She purées it until it's spoonable, and sticky enough to coat the mouth. 

 

Add something chewy:

Throw in some QQ into that smooth porridge. “Mochi is one of my favorite ingredients,” Phan says. “[We’re] using Koda Farms mochiko, which is sweet rice flour.” Phan fortifies her teeny, hand-rolled mochi balls with a green onion dashi, granting it a subtle herbaceousness. 

 

Add something spicy:

Phan turns to the underutilized watermelon rinds, which she braises in a savory mushroom stock with Szechuan and sansho peppercorns, orange peel, chile, chile, and more chiles. The rinds become rich with the umami broth, giving every bite of Phan’s sweet porridge a hint of the Szechuan and sansho’s distinctive mouth tingle.

 

Add a protein (but do it delicately):

If using a protein, make sure it isn’t too heavy, or it will overpower the porridge. Phan suggests braising red meat with fresh ingredients rather than dry, which will brighten up its deep flavors. She braises her short rib with 25 different ingredients, including fresh jujubes, ginger, and fennel. “I really want to put a delicate hand on everything,” she says.

 

Add something pickled:

Pickles bring a hit of punchiness to the porridge. Phan always has a collection of mason jars filled with colorful vegetables pickling in coriander stems, bay leaves, and garlic, but for her velvet porridge, she goes with a brassica. Phan says, “Brassica always has a teeny bit of pepperiness, which cuts through the richness.” 

 

Pick a flower:

Phan always finishes her velvet porridge with a sprinkle of fresh flora. Similar to the pickles, she looks for flowers that are particularly peppery like nasturtium or mustard flowers. But no matter the flower (or no flower at all), Porridge + Puff’s porridges are completely based around accessible ingredients. It’s porridge for the people, after all. 

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