Stirred porridge or not, which team are you?

Posted on 11 March, 2021

Indonesian (original) version, click here.

Written by Dinda Ichsani – AIYA National Blog Editor
Translated by Lotte Troost – AIYA National Content Translator

Bubur (porridge) is one of the well-known traditional foods amongst Indonesian people, and it is often eaten for breakfast. Due to its popularity, this food can be found easily and is sold in almost any location, including restaurants, street vendors and mobile porridge makers. The most common types of Indonesian porridge are bubur ayam, bubur sumsum, and bubur kacang hijau. However, due to Indonesia’s culinary richness, it won’t be surprising if you have not yet tasted or even heard of bubur bassang, bubur barobbo, bubur gunting and other types of porridge. Certain types of porridge are famous throughout the country, while you can find other porridge varieties only in certain areas.  

Bubur is typically made from rice cooked in boiling water until it becomes soft. Some of the porridge is very liquid, and you can easily chew it. Apart from rice, the basic ingredients of Indonesian porridge also diversify, ranging from green beans, rice flour, black sticky rice and more. Porridge contains several ingredients and nutrients that are healthy to our body, such as carbohydrates, protein, vitamin, and fibre.

The history of porridge in Indonesian cuisine

Bubur has been part of traditional Indonesian cuisine since the Dutch colonial period. In a report by kompas.com, Murdijati Gardjito, a professor and food researcher at Gadjah Mada University, said that during the colonial period, porridge was eaten when the harvest was delayed or failed. People also consumed porridge during a rice crisis or when they didn’t have the means to buy enough rice. The local people mixed it with a lot of water to meet dietary needs, and it became a porridge. Besides, Javanese people interpret porridge as a symbol of equity because porridge can serve more people. 

Bubur is four times richer in water than rice. A kilogram of rice can serve up to 15 people, but four litres of bubur can serve up to 40 people, especially when mixed with root vegetables,” Murdijati explained.

Indonesian porridge varieties

Before further discussion on whether we should stir porridge or not, it would be good to learn about the types of porridge in Indonesia first:

  • Bubur ayam

This type of porridge has spread throughout Indonesia but first appeared on the island of Java. Bubur ayam consists of rice that is cooked until it becomes porridge. This porridge is served with yellow coconut milk and toppings such as shredded chicken, fried soybeans, sliced onion leaves, fried onions, fried dough slices, soy sauce, sweet soy sauce and crackers. The meal is usually also supplemented with gizzard liver satay, intestinal satay and quail egg satay.

Bubur ayam

  • Bubur sumsum 

This porridge is often served during traditional Javanese ceremonies, especially weddings. So, it is said that this porridge originates from Central Java and East Java. Although originally from Java, this porridge has spread across the archipelago. This porridge has a very soft texture, so it suits all ages. The main ingredients for bubur sumsum are rice flour, coconut milk and brown sugar. Rice flour and coconut milk are cooked until it becomes thick, and it’s added with pandan leaves and salt to enrich the taste. You can serve the sumsum porridge either warm or cold.

Bubur sumsum

  • Bubur mengguh

At first sight, this porridge looks like bubur ayam, but it’s different actually. You can only find this traditional food on the Island of Gods, Bali. The local people refer to it as bubuh. This type of porridge is prepared in the same way as bubur ayam since both are made from rice. However,  bubur mengguh is cooked with coconut milk and bay leaves and is served with spiced shredded chicken dipped in thick chicken sauce and served with vegetable urap. You can also add fried peanuts and fried onions.

Bubur mengguh

  • Bubur bassang

This porridge originates from Makassar, South Sulawesi and is made with corn and thick coconut milk. The type of corn used is not the regular sweet corn, but pulut corn instead. The combination of sweetness and savory comes solely from the corn and coconut milk.

Bubur bassang

  • Bubur gunting

Quite a unique name, isn’t it? This porridge is called gunting because the process of making this porridge requires some scissors or gunting. It is made from glutinous rice flour, pandan leaves, salt and coconut milk. This porridge originates from Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan.

Bubur gunting

  • Bubur tinutuan/Bubur manado

As the name implies, this porridge originates from Manado, North Sulawesi. Bubur tinutuan is a mixture of rice, sweet potato, sweet corn, and vegetables such as young melinjo leaves, spinach, kale leaves, and basil leaves. The spices used are salt, lemongrass, green onions, and turmeric leaves. You can supplement bubur tinutuan with salted fish and sambal dabu-dabu.

Bubur tinutuan

  • Bubur barobbo 

This porridge is a traditional food from South Sulawesi. Bubur barobbo is made from pulut corn mixed with various vegetables, sliced chicken or shrimp, and corn fritters. You only need some basic spices for this porridge, such as cinnamon, pepper, onion, garlic, nutmeg, tomato, and salt.

Bubur barobbo

In addition to the different types of porridge mentioned above, there are still many other types of traditional Indonesian porridge. Although all these types are known as porridge, their basic ingredients, taste, and appearance are definitely different. Indonesian cuisine is very unique and diverse, isn’t it! If you want to know more about the various traditional Indonesian porridges, the Ministry of Education and Culture’s National Agency for Language Development and Cultivation has summarized it very well!

The debate about stirred or unstirred porridge

Illustration. (credits: Udit – AIYA National Graphic Designer)

For today’s active internet users, “is the porridge stirred or not?” may sound familiar. This quote calls into question our preferences and how we eat porridge, generally bubur ayam or other rice-based porridge. For some people, porridge will be more delicious if eaten stirred, with the rice porridge mixed along with spices and toppings, so they can’t eat it separately. However, some people dislike their porridge to be stirred. They prefer to eat porridge with the rice porridge separated and with the additional ingredients and toppings on its top.

Unstirred porridge (left) VS Stirred porridge (right)

The debate about both ways of eating porridge is also related to science. As cited from the Idntimes article, stirred porridge is better than unstirred porridge. This is because all the ingredients are mixed evenly so our stomach can digest it easily. Though, eating unstirred porridge is not a bad thing either. The unstirred porridge is more pleasing to the eye than the stirred porridge. This opinion is in line with results of a joint study by the University of Oxford, University of Birmingham, and BI Norwegian Business School in the journal Flavor in 2014. This study reveals that that presenting food in an aesthetically pleasing manner can enhance the experience of a dish. In particular, the use of artistic (visual) influences can enhance a diner’s rating of the flavour of a dish.

Whether stirred or not, porridge has become part of many people’s lives. Its nutritional value is good, and the soft texture is also beneficial for some people. For example, people who just got braces, they could avoid moving their mouth and jaw too much. It can be difficult for them to chew, so eating porridge is one of the best food options. Moreover, porridge is also good for people who feel sick because they can easily digest the porridge, and chewing doesn’t require much energy. 

In conclusion, this difference of preference between porridge being stirred or not isn’t a matter of serious debate but is simply a matter of entertainment among the Indonesian people. Both have a million benefits for the body. No matter how you enjoy your porridge meal, always respect other people who eat it differently from yours! 

So… are you part of the stirred porridge team or the unstirred porridge team? Choose your fighter!