山藥南瓜小米粥 Millet Porridge with Pumpkin and Chinese Yam
Yesterday was “Cold Dew寒露” based on the ancient Chinese 24 Solar Terms (now a World Heritage since 2016), it is the time when temperature drops to dew point, but not so cold yet to reach frost point. As the weather gets colder and drier, it’s time to eat porridge since the traditional Chinese dietary therapy believes a good warm porridge nourish the body as well as hydrates the skin. Well, but that’s not the reason I made this millet porridge.
When I was little, my parents used to order millet porridge when we dine out in an old restaurant. I was always fascinated by these little fluffy yellow grains in the bowl and the nice feeling swallowing it. Best part is I got to put sugar in and eat it sweet. Millet porridge is a very versatile dish you can enjoy it from breakfast to dinner. Eat it sweet, or just original flavor with some pickled vegetable or main course are all popular ways to have it among Chinese eating culture. Certainly I had no idea millet porridge has been considered good source of food therapy in Chinese culinary history for a thousand year, despite millet’s gluten-free and its long list of nutrition facts. So when I saw bags of these little yellow grains in the supermarket, I knew I have to make the porridge again.
But, what is 24 Solar Terms? To be short, it is 24 specific periods (each about 2 weeks long) through out the year that reflect weather changes or natural phenomena. The 24 solar terms were created and completed by ancient Chinese farmer initially to guide agricultural schedule and activities latest between 206 BC–24 AD. It has an important influence among other aspects of life, including diet, dressing… throughout Chinese history.
- 45g Chinese yam (the amount is adjustable depending on how much Chinese yam do you like to have. Same for pumpkin)
- 45g pumpkin
- 100g millet
- 10g Goji berries
- 1300g *water
*If you prefer a thicker porridge then reduce water to 1 liter or less. More water will also result a softer millet grain in porridge. As mentioned above, millet porridge is a versatile dish, you can also substitute water with chicken broth for a different flavor. Here I use water for a plain creamy broth to enjoy it two ways. Sweet, or non-sweet to go with other dish.
- Rinse millet then soak it in water for 30 minutes. By doing so, the actual cooking time can be reduced.
- Prepare pumpkin and Chinese yam. Clean and peel off the skin then dice, slice or chop pumpkin and Chinese yam. To reach a tender texture after porridge is done, cut these two vegetables into smaller pieces. Rinse goji berries a few times until you see the water is clear.
- Bring water to boil, put in millet and stir in one direction for 3 minutes until you see soup become cloudy and denser. Make sure you skim the foam and add millet only AFTER water is boiling. Put in pumpkin and Chinese yam to boil for another 3-5 minutes. If you prefer a very tender pumpkin, or your pumpkin chops are bigger, boil a bit longer at this point. Turn down to very low heat, put the lid on the pot and keep millet simmering for another 15 minutes. Then remove lid, stir in one direction for 8-10 minutes. This is to result a creamy texture for the porridge. By now you can see the broth is creamy. Put in goji berries 5 minutes before you turn off heat because you will lose a lot of nutrition from goji berrie if you overcooked it.
- Serve hot with sugar or enjoy it plain with other pickled vegetables, main dish like rice is all good.
Good to Know
Millet is actually a tiny little seed, not grain. And it’s not just birdseed, it’s very good food for human, too! Millet is packed with various nutrition including: magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, manganese, tryptophan (an essential amino acid only found in certain food), B vitamins and antioxidants. It is also gluten-free and full of fiber that help to lower chances of type 2 diabetes. Apart from western point of view, doctors from traditional Chinese medicine tracing back to several hundreds of years have always considered millet porridge a very good food source to nourish health, some even believe its health benefit is better than ginseng soup. Therefore, many of the past Chinese emperors were known to include millet or other porridge in their daily specially selected diet.