Food For Thought: Barobbo Porridge Treat

Barobbo, a bowl of comfort food from South Sulawesi. (Photo courtesy of Petty Elliott)

By : Jakarta Globe | on 2:13 PM July 13, 2014
Category : Life & Style, Food & Drink

There are many varieties of porridge in Indonesian cuisine from classic savory bubur ayam, a rice and chicken porridge, to sweet bubur kacang hijau, a mung bean porridge with palm sugar and coconut cream.

In Manado, North Sulawesi, there is the famous tinutuan or bubur manado, a delicious rice porridge with a variety of vegetables, corn, cubed sweet potatoes with fragrant basil and lemongrass. It is normally served with sambal roa, ground dried and smoked garfish with chili and shallots.

Then there is barobbo from South Sulawesi. Corn is the main ingredient here, with three different textures: whole kernels, pureed, and cake. The dish is typically served with kangkung, or morning glory, and spinach and chopped prawns.

This dish is really flexible because you can also make polenta from fresh pureed corn. Polenta is an Italian dish made of cornmeal boiled into porridge and left to cool. It can be shaped into balls, patties or sticks and then baked, grilled or fried until golden. These are then cooked with various cheeses, butter and mushrooms and typically served with fish or meat.

I like to add pan-fried prawns with garlic and lime to give a contemporary taste.

Barobbo is very easy to make and a very delicious meal. It has a totally different flavor from bubur manado and is perfect for breaking the fast. For this week’s recipe, I have barobbo with pan-fried shrimp and a twist of horenzo, a  Japanese spinach that is available locally. Enjoy!


You can prepare the corn cake and the corn porridge in advance. You can cook the prawn and reheat the corn porridge and add the spinach just before serving. It takes little time to cook a medium-sized prawn and reheat the porridge and cook the spinach with the porridge.

Serves 6


For the porridge

400gr of corn kernels, finely blended; 200gr or 1 large corn cob, sliced; 350gr horenzo spinach, discard the stems; 2 tablespoons chopped celery leaves; 8 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced; 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped finely; 1 tablespoon vegetable oil; 1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper; 1 liter water; salt to season.

For the corn cake:

200gr or 1 large corn cob; 100gr medium shrimps, finely chopped; 4 tablespoons rice flour; 1 egg; 1 tablespoon chopped celery leaves; 1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped; 5 shallots, peeled and finely chopped; 2 red chili peppers, finely chopped; 1 spring onion, finely chopped; 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper; oil for frying.

For the prawn:

600gr medium prawn or 3-4 pieces per person, shelled and de-veined; juice of 3 limes; salt and black pepper to season; 3 tablespoons vegetable oil


1. To make the porridge: Heat a large pan and add the oil and saute the finely chopped garlic and sliced shallots for 2-3 minutes or until fragrant.

2. Add the corn puree and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the water and cook on medium heat for 10-15 minutes until the mixture thickens.

3. In the mean time, make the corn cakes: mix all the ingredients except the oil. Season with salt and black pepper.

4. Heat the oil in a frying pan. Use one spoon to scoop the batter and another spoon to help scrape the batter into the hot oil. Carefully drop it into the hot oil and deep fry until golden on both sides.

5. Transfer the corn cakes onto a kitchen towel to absorb the excess oil.

6. To pan-fry the prawns: season the prawns with lime and salt.

7. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a frying pan and add the prawns and cook for 2 minutes each side depending on the size of the prawns. Turn the heat off and keep the prawns warm.

8. Season the porridge with salt and white pepper. Add the horenzo and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add a little bit of water if the mixture is too thick. Add the chopped parsley and check the final seasoning.

9. To serve: ladle the porridge into individual serving bowls and add the prawns and corn cakes. Serve hot immediately.

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