An ancient grain provides a simple, gluten-free Millet Soup that is rather basic but can be customized many different ways.
Millet is not a specific grain per se but a family of grass seeds that has been cultivated for at least 10,000 years. Its resistance to drought and high productivity have fed Chinese populations for millennia; few Westerners may be familiar with this grain as it is typically sold as commercial bird seed. Today, this soup is often so cheap and common that it is given away for free by restaurants and street vendors to stoke the appetite and encourage further food purchases.
The preparation of this thin porridge could not be simpler: millet and boiling water. A brief toasting of the dry grains does add a little flavor, allowing the aromas to open up, but too much for too long will render the millet tough. After 20 minutes the soup is done, and how much further it is cooked depends on the desired consistency and how soft the grains are intended.
The flavor of this dish is rather plain, providing just a mild bready nature and a gentle toothy texture. However, this only provides a base for the soup that can be taken in almost any direction, including both savory and sweet. Typical service options include a spoonful of pickled vegetables, tofu, soy sauce, sambal oelek or a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.
More additions also take this base further down different varieties of soup. Additions of cooked mushrooms or diced sweet potatoes would not be unusual, as would any varied combinations of vegetables. Chicken, pork or shrimp can also be added, although the simplicity of this dish traditionally favors a meat-free presentation. A spoonful of sugar and a sprinkle of cinnamon makes it into a satisfying dessert.
Cook the soup with a piece of raw ginger (remove before serving) for a light appetizer in a traditional Chinese meal.
½ c millet
1 Toast the millet in a dry pan over medium-high heat just enough for a toasty aroma, about 2 min. Do not brown.
2 Bring 4 c of salted water to a boil. Add the millet and reduce the heat. Simmer, covered, for 30 min or until the millet is tender.