Bee Koh Moy, a healthy bowl of goodness
In Penang, Bee Koh Moy (Hokkien for black glutinous rice porridge, Bubur Pulut Hitam in Malay) is often served topped with fresh coconut milk. The yin-yang-looking combination of mildly sweetened black rice porridge drizzled with a slightly salty creamy white coconut milk sauce is a scrumptious treat. The rich and creamy dish, perfumed with aromatic pandan (screw pine) leaves, can be served warm or chilled. This offering is usually enjoyed for breakfast, at tea time or as a dessert after a meal; it is best savoured in small portions as it is hearty and filling.
Bee Koh Moy is available at a few dessert stalls in Penang. These stalls would also offer other sweet broths including Gandum (sweet wheat porridge), Ang Tau Thng (red bean porridge), Lek Tau Thng (green bean porridge) and Si Ko Thng (white fungus, longan and lotus seed sweet soup). A stall that I frequent on my way back from work in the evenings is located in front of the Jelutong market. Two other options to consider include Dessert Old Time Delight Shop at 78, Lebuh Kimberley and Tong Sui Po at 64 Jalan Seang Teik.
Below is an easy-to-make recipe that requiring very few ingredients. Happy cooking.
Ingredients for the porridge
- 1 cup (220 g) black glutinous rice (cleaned and soaked overnight)
- A handful of white glutinous rice (cleaned and soaked overnight)
- 150 g sugar (mix rock sugar and palm sugar, adjust to taste)
- ½ – 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
- 50 g dried longans
- 5-6 cups of water
- 2 blades of pandan leaves (cleaned and knotted)
Ingredients for the coconut milk sauce
- 1 cup fresh santan (coconut milk)
- ½ tsp salt (or to taste)
- 2 blades of pandan leaves (cleaned and knotted)
Drain the soaked glutinous rice, putting it into a pot of boiling water. Add pandan leaves.
Use medium-low heat to simmer until the glutinous rice turns soft and splits (broken up), usually taking about 35-45 minutes. Occasionally, stir the rice to prevent it from burning. Check the water level, topping up when necessary.
Once the glutinous rice has broken up and the porridge has reached a thick consistency, add both types of sugar, a pinch of salt and the dried longans. Stir until sugar dissolves.
Cover the pot with a lid and set it aside to rest for at least 30 minutes before serving. This will enable the rice to absorb the sweetness and flavours. It will also allow the starch to be released from the glutinous rice, thus thickening the porridge further.
Put the santan into a small pot, adding a pinch of salt. Add the pandan leaves. On low heat, warm up the santan without bringing it to a boil. Remove the pandan leaves and set it aside to cool. When cool, then store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
To serve, dish out a bowl of Bee Koh Moy and top it with the santan.
- Black glutinous rice comes with the outermost layer of bran intact, making the exterior harder and hence taking longer to cook. Soaking overnight helps to quicken the cooking time although you can also cook it without soaking.
- I have added a handful of white glutinous rice that will thicken and smoothen the texture of porridge slightly, providing a creamier finish.
- The consistency I would opt for is very thick bearing in mind that the santan will dilute the porridge.
- For a hassle-free cooking method, you can use a slow cooker or a pressure cooker/instant pot to make Bee Koh Moy as well. If you are using a slow cooker (on high for about 2 hours) or a pressure cooker (15 minutes).
- Unfinished porridge can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat it before consuming.
- If served chilled, dilute the porridge a little with ice cubes or water as it tends to thicken up when stored in the refrigerator.
I once had a bowl of Bee Koh Moy served with a scoop of yam ice cream at Fisherman’s Grill Restaurant. (Established in 1996, the restaurant in Bayan Lepas closed in 2019.) The warm porridge and the cool ice cream made a brilliant combo. A scoop of vanilla ice cream would taste fantastic as well, this being a substitute for the santan. Add less sugar to the porridge if you are planning to serve it with ice cream.
You can also top the dish with canned longans or sweet potatoes (cooked separately). If you are having it for tea, fry up a batch of crispy bananas to accompany it. The textures and flavours complement each other well. Try these options and you might be in for a pleasant surprise.
Contrary to its name, black glutinous rice (Oryza Sativa species) is actually purplish-black, almost a strong burgundy hue when cooked. Black rice is sometimes referred to as purple rice.
There are three main varieties – black glutinous rice (long-grain rice common in Southeast Asian countries), black Japonica rice (a mixture of black short-grain japonica rice and medium-grain red rice) and Chinese black rice (grown in China and is not sticky). Packed with nutrients and fibre, black rice is one of the healthiest rice grains because it is unprocessed. The exterior of the rice, the bran, contains insoluble dietary fiber that makes one feel full more quickly, reducing the likelihood of overeating.
Black rice was once known as the “forbidden rice” because of its scarcity in Ancient China and reserved solely for the emperor and royalties. It is also being used in traditional Chinese medicine. The colour of black rice is the result of a plant pigment called anthocyanin; researchers today discover that it contains higher amounts of minerals link to a number of positive health effects (e.g., anti-inflammatory properties to healthier arteries and better insulin regulation).
There you have it. Now you know that not only is Bee Koh Moy delicious, it is a power-packed bowl of goodness as well. Enjoy and stay healthy.
Written and photographed by Adrian Cheah
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Updated 19 June 2021