Kenda Sweet Rice Porridge: An American Recipe

March 30, 2013

Kenda: Sri Lankan style congee (rice porridge).

If you haven’t heard of Kenda, it is a Sri Lankan rice porridge (or “congee“) made from white or red raw rice. I cooked this comfort food on a whim, simply because I was already simmering plain rice porridge for breakfast, but wanted to try something different.  Oh, man did it come out terrific!  In this particular sweet version, the rice was simmered in coconut milk and some brown sugar.  To make it authentic, I would’ve needed to use red rice (although white is fine) and palm sugar.  I found a few recipes and descriptions online, but I soon realized I didn’t have all the proper ingredients.  So, as I usually do, I cooked by instinct and rummaged through my pantry to find the required toppings that could possibly work.  My hoarding of dried fruit and nuts finally paid off!  I had to estimate the measurements as I cooked everything to taste.  It’s really hard to ruin congee.  There’s no such thing as overcooking!  Scroll down for the recipe.

 

KENDA RICE PORRIDGE RECIPE

(Servings vary, based on amount of cooked rice used)
Prep time: 15 minutes / Cooking time: 45 minutes to 1 hour / Add 25 minutes if rice needs to be cooked

ingredients

5 cups of water
1 cup of cooked white rice — Jasmine, Texas Long Grain, Basmati and similar
(do not use the extra glutinous Calrose or sushi rice)
1/2 can of coconut milk (freeze remaining for later use)
1 to 2 Tablespoons brown sugar (or any sugar with some molasses still in it like raw sugar)
a pinch of salt (optional)

the toppings

1/2 cup coarsely chopped unsalted pistachios, pine nuts or roasted unsalted peanuts
(I used unsalted raw peanuts, roasted in its skin)
1/2 cup diced dates (I used Medjool dates, pitted)
1/4 cup raisins or currants (I used currants in this recipe)

In a medium sauce pan, bring the water to a boil and spoon in the cooked rice.  Stir in the coconut milk, sugar and salt.  Bring the heat down to low and cover.  Simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, checking and stirring every 10 minutes to make sure the water doesn’t dry out and the rice doesn’t burn or stick to the sides.  If the water is almost boiled away, stir in an extra 1/2 cup of hot water and cover.  Once the rice is disintegrated and the porridge looks semi-thick (see video) and oatmeal like, it is done.

Ladle the rice porridge into a deep soup or cereal bowl and sprinkle toppings to taste.  Serve hot.

 

Side note: my first serious boyfriend was a Sri Lankan guy, and boy did this conjure up some memories.  I never ate Sinhalese food, but ironically, he used to cook Chinese stir fry a lot.  Funny how memories can be tied to food!

Like rice porridges from most Asian countries, there are many variations in terms of what Kenda is cooked with, and what toppings can be used.  That’s the fun part of rice porridge: you can stray away a bit and put toppings that suit your taste.  Even though I’d like to think my culinary palette is quite diverse, I’m almost certain I’ve put an American spin on this recipe.  You be the judge.  Give it a try; you may find yourself hooked.

 

~Kathy

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