Bubur Lambuk, a lightly spiced rice porridge, is a Ramadan tradition in Singapore and Malaysia that can be traced back to a mosque, in the mid 20th century in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
This is a recipe that I’ve been wanting to blog for quite a few years now, and thanks to a nudge from a friend on Instagram, I’m finally getting around to doing it.
Bubur means porridge, and this can be sweet or savoury, as we have a gazillion kinds of porridge in South East Asia, made with all kinds of grains.
Bubur Lambuk History
Now, there are a couple of stories explaining the origin of bubur lambuk. One claims that it dates back to 15th century Malacca, and something to do with visiting royalty from the north.
However, the more commonly accepted claim is that this iconic Ramadan recipe was created in 1949 by the late Said Benk. He was a Pakistani immigrant, and a congregant of the old Jamek mosque (Masjid Jamek) in an area called Kampung Baru, in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia.
One day, during Ramadan, the fasting month, he brought with him a homemade rice porridge for Iftar (breaking of the fast), sharing it with his fellow congregants.
It proved to be such a hit, that he was asked to make it for everyone for the rest of the month. I am inclined to believe this story because bubur lambuk has a definite south Asian (Indian, Pakistani, etc) flavour to it.
Now apparently, that recipe was handed down person to person to this day, a recipe that only the mosque’s chief cook knows, and guards religiously. This recipe and tradition is so popular that it’s made its way to all parts of Malaysia and Singapore (which until 1965, was part of Malaysia), and also Indonesia.
Every day, during the fasting month, bubur lambuk is given out free to anyone who wants to take home a tub of it, whatever your circumstances. Giving out food or sharing your food with your neighbours and friends is very common practice that is highly encouraged during Ramadan.
When we were young, someone would always come back with a tub of it, no matter how much food my granny had prepared. It’s just something that was done, a tradition that one enjoys following.
Bubur Lambuk Recipe
It’s a very easy recipe to make at home. The ingredients may look a little misleading, it looks like a long list, but this is one pot cooking at its best. It’s rustic, it’s basic, but it’s so, so satisfying!
We place everything in the saucepan and leave it to cook away for 30 minutes or so. Nothing could be simpler. Most of the ingredients are easy to come by, the dried shrimp (image below) is the only one that you may have a problem finding depending on where you are. But more of that below.
Bubur Lambuk Ingredients
Bubur Lambuk is flavoured with a combination of:
- aromatics (onion, garlic, etc)
- spices (cinnamon, cumin, coriander, etc)
- a touch of coconut milk
- and dried shrimp
How much you use of the ingredients will affect the final flavour. My mum used to pile on the ginger. LIKE CRAZY. Being a huge fan of ginger (teh halia, anyone?), I absolutely loved her version.
I add a little turmeric to my bubur lambuk, for both a touch of colour as well as aroma.
Dried Shrimp in Bubur Lambuk (image above)
Click here to read more. Dried shrimps are shrimps that have been sundried and have shrunk in size. Coveted in many cuisines around the world for its umami taste, dried shrimp have a very strong scent and flavour of the sea.
If you can’t find them, or don’t want them, just leave them out. For a vegetarian umami hit, add sliced shiitake (mushrooms) to your bubur lambuk.
Pandan Leaves in Bubur Lambuk
Click here to read more The pandan plant or pandanus amaryllifolius is a tropical plant that is highly valued in Asian cooking. It has a grassy, sweet aroma and is used in both sweet and savoury dishes as both a herb for its fragrance, as well as its colour.
You can leave this out completely, as we’ll be topping the porridge with fresh coriander leaves (cilantro) and spring onions (scallions).
Vegan Bubur Lambuk
It’s so easy to convert the traditional recipe into a vegetarian or vegan one. Just skip the dried shrimp and use soya mince, something I do at home, because most of my kids are vegetarian.
In fact, you could even just use tiny cubed carrots and peas; and shiitake, as mentioned above.
That’s it. Easy, right?
For all my fellow similarly displaced Singaporeans and Malaysians. Let’s get our aprons on!
More Ramadan Recipes on LinsFood
Head on over to the Ramadan page for an amazing collection of cosmopolitan recipes that will see you through the whole month. Like the following:
Images by LinsFoodies
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Bubur Lambuk, a lightly spiced Rice Porridge from Singapore and Malaysia
- 2 litres water
- 200 g Basmati rice or any long grain rice
- 60 g dried shrimp (udang kering)
- 200 g meat of your choice (minced chicken, beef or lamb) I'm using beef
- 250 ml half strength coconut milk
- 1 small cinnamon stick (kayu manis)
- 1 small star anise (bunga lawang)
- 2 cloves (bunga cengkih)
- 2 cardamoms (buah pelaga)
- 1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds (jintan manis)
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground coriander (serbuk ketumbar)
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin (serbuk jintan manis)
- 1/2 tsp ground turmeric (kunyit)
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper (serbuk lada hitam)
- chopped coriander leaves cilantro (daun ketumbar)
- crispy fried shallots
- chopped spring onions scallions (daun bawang)
- chopped fresh red or green chillies OR chilli flakes
Boil the water with spices and aromatics
- Bring the water to boil in a large saucepan over high heat.
- While waiting, rinse the rice, drain and set aside.
- Chop up the onion, garlic and ginger fairly finely. You can do it by hand or place everything into a chopper. Tip the whole lot into the water as it is heating up.
- Bruise the end of the lemongrass, by hitting down hard on it with the back of a knife. Add it to the water.
- Tie all the pandan leaves up with a knot in the middle. Drop them in the water.
- Add all the whole spices to the water. So that’ll be 1 small cinnamon stick, 1 small star anise, 2 cloves, 2 cardamoms and 1/2 tsp cumin seeds. Leave the water to come to a boil.
- Place the dried shrimp in a chopper and chop to a fine floss like state. Set aside.
When the water is boiling
- Tip in the rinsed rice and whatever meat you are using. Bring back to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to medium and add all the ground spices. So that’s 2 tsp salt, 1 tsp ground coriander, 1/2 tsp ground cumin, 1/2 tsp ground turmeric and 1/2 tsp black pepper. Stir to mix.
- Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20-30 minutes, until the rice is all cooked and breaking up slightly. Add a little more water if it’s getting too thick, but don’t forget, we still have 1 cup of coconut milk to be added in. You can cook it for longer if you like a more uniform porridge consistency. You will need more water, the longer you cook.
- Stir in the coconut milk and ground dried shrimp, and bring back to a simmer, cooking for no more than a minute. Check seasoning, add more salt if you think it needs it.
- Serve up, garnished with the fried shallots, fresh coriander leaves, spring onions and chilli slices.