Oma's Tinutuan / Bubur Manado - Manadonese Rice Porridge

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Living in the tropics for most of my life, we enjoyed salads, soups, or porridge on any day without much regard to the weather (which is mostly hot). It's more apparent in produce, which hardly is seasonal back home because it grows year around. So yes, meals and grocery shopping were much easier, even if that meant more predictable. 

Which is a case in point for this very dish. Known as Tinutuan or Tinotuan by the Manadonese, or simply Bubur Manado (porridge from Manado) as known by all other Indonesians. A warming, comforting bowl of savoury goodness with a touch of sweet, and there I am, enjoying it in the sweltering 34 degrees celsius of my dining room in Jakarta, air-conditioned, thankfully. Yes, I am enjoying it, oblivious to the beads of perspiration along my hairline, made only worse by the scorching sambal that accompanies this porridge. And yet, we continue to devour this every time Oma brings it over or cooks it at home. 

Oma's Tinutuan is amazing, to say the very least. It's simple to make, highly aromatic, and I guess it's that little touch of sweet from the ubi (sweet potato) that makes it irresistible to children. And when cooked with ube, a purple sweet potato, it takes on a beautiful shade of ethereal pink that makes kids forget there are actually greens in there. Then again, thankfully, never had a hiccup with greens with my kids. But you have to agree it is a visual delicacy, the pink, the greens, the yellow. It's like we are devouring a pretty painting. 

Can you see the steam emanating from the bowl?
Now Oma is a great cook, who brings a lot of goodies everytime she visits. The kids rave for her legendary chocolate pudding, they request her babi rica or chili barbequed pork and gurame woku, and are overjoyed to see her kaastengels and ananas taartjes. Oma does not cook with a recipe, though. And it is quite challenging to constantly interrupt her to weigh the ingredients she is about to dump into the pan, or knead into her dough.

But this Tinutuan is easy. It's a play it by ear approach. I saw Oma make it a few times and I'm confident I can do it too, even without weighed ingredients. Oma flavours it with lemongrass from the get-go, leaving the contents to her imagination, and the haul of the morning wet market. Ubi (sweet potato), labu (chayote), and corn, usually shaved off the cob, is cooked together with the rice. And when it is done, kangkung (water/river spinach) and bayam (spinach) are stirred into the resulting porridge, with a handful of kemangi (lemon basil) leaves providing an aromatic icing on the cake, so to speak.

And so as the warm evenings fade into cooler nights, give this a try. Not only is it a comforting belly-warming bowl of pretty produce, it is a taste of Manado, where Oma comes from. Oh, and it goes well with her perkedel jagung (corn fritters) too :)

240 g (1-1/4 cup) rice, jasmine or long-grained
1000 ml (4 cups) cold water
2 stalks lemongrass
1 tsp salt
200 g - about 1 medium sweet potato 
165 g (1 cup) fresh or frozen corn kernels
100 g - about 1 bunch red spinach, rinsed
50 g - handful of lemon basil leaves

Ikan asin - dried salted fish
Sambal roa - smoked garfish cooked in chili sauce

1. Soak, swish, and rinse the rice with cold water, 2 to 3 times, until the water runs clear.
2. Trim the browned tops of the lemongrass, and bruise, or crush the stem part, with the side of a knife or a meat tenderizer.
3. Wash, peel, and dice the sweet potato to 2 cm cubes.

4. Transfer rice, lemongrass, salt, and sweet potato to a large stockpot, add the cold water and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Stir often.
5. When the rice is cooked and softened and the sweet potatoes are soft, add the corn, cook a further 5 minutes.
6. Taste, and adjust for salt, remove lemongrass stalks, then stir in the rinsed spinach and the lemon basil leaves.
7. Serve while hot.

You Might Also Like


  1. I just made this for dinner tonight and it was amazing!! It was easy to make and I would absolutely make it again.