This Cambodian chicken rice porridge recipe makes borbor sach moan, Cambodian congee. Called borbor sach moan in Khmer, it’s thought that this chicken rice porridge is a dish of Chinese origin and part of the Cambodian-Chinese culinary heritage rather than a Khmer dish, but no matter its provenance it’s become a comfort food favourite of all Cambodians.
Our Cambodian chicken rice porridge recipe for borbor sach moan, the Cambodian take on Chinese congee is a classic Cambodian comfort food favourite that is eaten at any time of the day. During our eight years in Cambodia we’ve observed Cambodians tuck into big bowls of borbor for breakfast, brunch, lunch, an afternoon snack, dinner (particularly if someone isn’t feeling well), and a late night supper (i.e. hangover cure).
Called borbor sach moan in Khmer, this chicken congee is thought to be a dish of Chinese origin and part of the Cambodian-Chinese culinary heritage rather than a Khmer dish, but whatever its origin, over many centuries it’s become a comfort food favourite of all Cambodians – as well as Cambodian residents, including ourselves.
If it is of Chinese heritage, Cambodians have really made rice porridge their own. Here in Siem Reap you’ll find anything from chicken, pork, fish, dried fish, seafood, snails, and frog legs in borbor and you’ll also see an array of condiments, from dried fish floss and pickled vegetables to the condiments we love to use: fish sauce, chilli flakes, chilli oil, and fresh fragrant herbs.
If you like this Cambodian chicken rice porridge, please do browse our other recipes, particularly our Cambodian recipes, and please do check out our epic Cambodian cookbook and culinary history research project. The cookbook documents recipes by Cambodian cooks from around the country and shares their stories, portraits and kitchens, while the culinary history tells the long rich story of Cambodian food for the first time. We’re always looking for patrons and you can support that project for as little as US$2 or US$5 a month on Patreon.
Cambodian Chicken Rice Porridge Recipe – How to Make Borbor Sach Moan
The most important piece of advice we can give you when it comes to making this Cambodian chicken rice porridge recipe is that you must use fresh home-made chicken stock as this is the flavour base of the dish. A bland chicken stock or, alternatively, a salty commercial chicken stock is not going to do the dish any favours – or flavours (sorry).
My favourite way to make a chicken stock with Southeast Asian leanings is to start with a base of chicken bones that have been blanched, then add some carrots and coriander roots to a pot filled with cold water.
Add lemongrass (a whole stick of lemongrass tied in a knot), star anise, a cinnamon stick, slices of ginger and galangal, and a kaffir lime leaf or two, and bring it to the boil, then simmer for about an hour.
You’ll need to skim any impurities from the surface of the simmering stock every now and again. A bonus: your abode will smell heavenly – like a cross between a Cambodian grandma’s kitchen and a luxurious spa.
Many Cambodians will use a whole chicken for the chicken stock and the resulting borbor sach moan. If you are making this Cambodian rice porridge for a family, sure, go ahead and use a whole chicken.
Because we are just making our Cambodian chicken rice porridge for four people – or rather, two people twice (in reality, I’ll eat a bowl the first time we make it, and Lara will polish off the remaining three portions, as she’s addicted to the stuff) – we’re using chicken breasts (which, I admit, I rarely use) and cooking them until they are just cooked, around 74˚C.
When your chicken stock is emitting these alluring aromas of lemongrass, star anise, cinnamon, ginger, galangal, and kaffir lime, your rice porridge is going to be amazing – especially after you’ve added condiments to your own personal taste.
One small caveat: while crunchy fried garlic is one of the most popular local garnishes for a Cambodian chicken rice porridge here in Siem Reap – and Lara is a fan – I actually prefer to use fried shallots as I think it’s more people-friendly.
Now, while you’ll probably find some chilli flakes, chilli oil and other condiments, such as fish sauce, salt, sugar, and so on, in a tray in front of you when you’re served Cambodian chicken rice porridge in Cambodia, when we’re making borbor sach moan at home I prefer to add condiments to the finished bowl of borbor before presenting it to Lara or guests.
If I’m dishing up this Cambodian chicken rice porridge at home, to the finished bowls of borbor sach moan I’ll usually add a splash of quality fish sauce. We like to use local Cambodian fish sauces for Cambodian dishes, but you’re unlikely to find those outside Cambodia. We recommend the Thai fish sauce brand Megachef, although we know that our American readers love the American-Vietnamese brand Red Boat.
Now while you probably will have some chilli flakes and chilli paste in your condiment tray when you eat this for breakfast in Cambodia, we prefer to add some chilli oil to the finished plate. But that’s the fun about this dish. As with a lot of Asian dishes, like Vietnam’s phở, you personalise your toppings to suit your taste.
Cambodian Chicken Rice Porridge Recipe
- 250 g chicken breast fresh, skin off
- 2 l chicken stock fresh
- 300 g jasmine rice rinsed and drained
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp fish sauce to taste
- 1 head round lettuce cut into long thin strips
- 100 g bean sprouts
- ground pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp chilli oil
- 1 bunch coriander
- 1 bunch sawtooth coriander
- 1 tbsp fried garlic
- In a large pot, place stock and chicken breasts. Cook over medium heat until the breasts are fully cooked. Remove the breasts from the stock and allow to cool a little. Skim off any impurities that rise to the surface of the stock.
- Add the rice and salt to the stock. Reduce heat to medium-low and leave to cook for around 20 minutes, until rice is tender but still with a little bite.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning by adding fish sauce. Remove the pot from the heat.
- When the chicken has cooled a little, shred the chicken breast meat with two forks.
- Place lettuce leaves and some of the bean sprouts at the bottom of the serving bowls. Ladle the congee into bowls and top with shredded chicken. Season with pepper and garnish with fresh aromatic herbs and fried garlic. Serve immediately.
Do let us know if you make our Cambodian chicken rice porridge recipe as we’d love to know how our borbor sach moan recipe turns out for you. And if you are a fan of congee, we’d love to hear what you love about it.