This new Chinese restaurant in Millbrae specializes in live seafood and porridge | Peninsula Foodist | Elena Kadvany | Palo Alto Online |

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This new Chinese restaurant in Millbrae specializes in live seafood and porridge

Uploaded: Jan 21, 2020
Porridge & Things, downtown Millbrae's newest restaurant, specializes in live seafood porridge from Chaozhou, a city in the eastern Guangdong province of China.
Also referred to as Chiu Chow, the coastal region of Chaozhou is known for its seafood, said Kevin Lu, a partner with Porridge & Things. Traditional Chiu Chow restaurants are few and far between in the Bay Area, which was part of the reason the owners wanted to bring Porridge & Things to Millbrae. (Lu said he's aware of one in San Francisco and another in Fremont.) The restaurant's chef hails from the Chiu Chow region and returned there for research before opening the 235 Broadway restaurant.
Vietnamese-Chiu Chow restaurants are more common in the Bay Area, he said, a reflection of mass migration from Chiu Chow to Vietnam during the Japanese invasion during World War II, as are fusion restaurants that serve some Chiu Chow dishes.
"There's really no competitor in this line of cuisine," Lu said.

Clam porridge from Porridge & Things in Millbrae. Photo courtesy Porridge & Things.
Porridge & Things is the newest concept from the owners of Noodles & Things, a build-your-own noodle soup shop with locations in San Mateo and Millbrae (just two blocks away from Porridge & Things).
Customers can take their pick from a tank filled with live lobster, crab, shrimp, abalone, geoduck and other fish to be cooked and served with porridge. They then choose their preferred cooking method for the seafood: boiled directly in the porridge, stir fried with scallion and ginger, salt and peppered, steamed or blanched.
"The sweetness of the live seafood," Lu said, "will transcend into the porridge."
The porridge is cooked in a clay pot in a traditional method called "sawo," Lu said. It's cooked and served in the same pot until the rice softens and thickens.
"The difference with Cantonese porridge is that a perfect Cantonese porridge has to be a paste with tiny remnants of rice instead of half a grain, which gives the two distinct textures," Lu said. "In Chinese (cuisine), texture is as important as presentation, (smell) and taste."
For those who haven't tried Chiu Chow food before, he suggested starting with the abalone and chicken porridge, plus the must-order Chinese donuts. Porridge & Things' signature dish, the crab and prawn porridge, is "for the real, bold Chiu Chow palate," he said.
If seafood isn't your thing, there are other options, from the more standard?-?wagyu beef, sweet potato and Chinese donuts?-?to the more adventurous, including frog, pork stomach and preserved 1,000-year-old eggs. Porridge & Things also serves small dishes such as braised goose, scallops in XO sauce, spicy beef tenderloin, stuffed tofu and dumplings.
Or, go big with the chef's choice option: a $1,500, 10-person, 18-course "luxury feast" crafted by the chef that must be ordered a week in advance.
For drinks, Porridge & Things offers a kung fu tea pairing, a traditional Chinese tea ceremony "with very specific protocol," Lu said.
"The tea opens up the palate for the flavor range of Chiu Chow cooking, one of which is 'fo hau,' meaning the heat of the stove (with) which the chef cooks. Each tea variety has it own distinct taste and personality, not unlike wine," he explained.
The owners are working on opening a fourth restaurant in San Francisco?-?an "express" version of Noodles & Things that will be akin to a cafeteria.
Porridge & Things is open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
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 +   4 people like this
Posted by Carol , a resident of Menlo Park,
on Jan 21, 2020 at 11:27 am

Looking forward to trying it. Millbrae has several great Chinese restaurants. We tried the restaurant called “Wonderful “ the other night and it was so good. Lived up to it's name!!

 +   4 people like this
Posted by resident, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jan 21, 2020 at 5:09 pm

Agreed. The Chinese food in Millbrae is tremendously better than in Palo Alto. Anyone know why that is?

 +   7 people like this
Posted by Why?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jan 21, 2020 at 5:21 pm

Resident- Palo Alto has no ethnic grocery stores ( think about that given the demographics of the city and area). So maybe the reason that there are better Chinese restaurants outside of Palo Alto May have something to do with that.

 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Sophie88, a resident of another community,
on Jan 21, 2020 at 11:08 pm

Resident - Palo Alto has good Chinese restaurants such as Tai Pan, Steam, Mandarin Roots. Their dishes are as good as those in Hong Kong and Shanghai.

 +   2 people like this
Posted by Millbrae, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Jan 22, 2020 at 12:55 pm

Don't know how much these numbers have changed since 2010-2015, but Millbrae's Chinese population is 32.1% of the total (the highest percentage of all Bay Area cities, and just outside the top 10 for California) compared to Palo Alto's 15.8%

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 +   3 people like this
Posted by Scotty, a resident of Green Acres,
on Jan 22, 2020 at 8:30 pm

Hard to find good porridge. Usually it's too hot or too cold.....

 +   1 person likes this
Posted by ChineseCuisine, a resident of North Bayshore,
on Jan 22, 2020 at 9:05 pm

IMO best Chinese restaurants in Palo Alto are Taste ??? and Chef Zhao, but Millbrae has more and better Chinese restaurants for sure.

Wonderful is OK but northern Chinese is not the most lauded cuisine in China. The best non-Cantonese places are Royal Feast ???? and the new Millbrae location of Easterly ??.

I can't name a best Cantonese place because there are just too many. The Kitchen is good.

 +   3 people like this
Posted by Longing for Cantonese Bites, a resident of Evergreen Park,
on Jan 23, 2020 at 8:51 am


> I can't name a best Cantonese place because there are just too many. The Kitchen is good.

Oh, but please do list the best Cantonese places to eat! There are a plethora of Chinese restaurants that serve Northern Chinese food, but I'm hard-pressed to find any Cantonese places where I can get a good beef chow fun, congee, dim sum, or HK-style breakfast.

Cooking Papa in MV is a travesty since they changed hands. Taste is decent, but the portions and prices are Palo Alto high. Hong Kong Restaurant on El Camino comes the closest in taste and price, but we order from there on a regular basis and are looking for a change.

Any good suggestions for places along the Peninsula or - even better - the South Bay?

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Longing for Cantonese Bites, a resident of Evergreen Park,
on Jan 23, 2020 at 8:54 am


Apologies - I meant that Steam - not Taste - was decent. I've never been to “Taste ???." Will have to give it a try.

 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Jan 28, 2020 at 10:40 am

Online Name is a registered user.

"Resident - Palo Alto has good Chinese restaurants such as Tai Pan, Steam, Mandarin Roots. Their dishes are as good as those in Hong Kong and Shanghai"

Mandarin Roots is such a disappointing attempt to be trendy fusion with sliders etc. I really miss the authentic old Hunan Gardens it replaced.

 +   1 person likes this
Posted by PChang, a resident of College Terrace,
on Feb 15, 2020 at 6:44 pm

Elena, your reference to chiu chow cuisine is also known as Teochew cuisine which is more specific to the Chaoshan coastal region in Guangdong, which is where the term Cantonese usually comes from. I love porridge so ill definitely check it out, you might also be interested in the Netflix series Flavorful Origins which has a lot of beautifully photgraphed 10 minute vignettes. on different specialties in the chaoshang region and how they are made. I dont think there are any great chinese restaurants in Palo Alto so Ive stopped going out to eat although Taste isnt bad. Da Sichuan has a few dishes we like as well. I also hear good things about Noodle Talk, in the San Antonio shopping center where Teaspoon is, from my southern Chinese friends. And if you know what to order, Chef Chu can be surprisingly good but you might have to know Larry Chu and order What he recommends-often not on the menu. Keep looking for those new out of the way places!

 +  Like this comment
Posted by charmi, a resident of Jackson Park,
on Feb 20, 2020 at 8:32 pm

My father died 2 years back and left me with an old restaurant that my great grandfather started with my grandfather 60 years ago. The restaurant has stood the test of time and still has a very small but loyal customer base who had been eating there for generations, but it has remained pretty much the same since it was started, it gets an occasional paint and repair job once every decade and that's about it. I was a software engineer working with a corporate company, earning around 30 Grand a month, but I wasn't happy with the job, the job was pretty close to modern slavery, and the kind of work I did there wasn't satisfying for the soul.
I wanted to take over my father's business, but I knew nothing about restaurants and to make matters worse the restaurant wasn't making enough dough for me to take care of my family's finances, as newer more efficient competitors had cropped up everywhere. I wanted to develop my business, all the banks I approached for a loan were sceptical to say the least as the property that I wanted to attest for the loan, was slowly crumbling into pieces.
One fine day I was sitting at my restaurant and going through all the feasible options available, when I noticed a strange trend, more and more people were starting to get parcels there, instead of walking into a restaurant to eat which made me realize that food is my commodity not the restaurant, so I decided to market my food specially and use the whole restaurant space to start a full-fledged delivery based cloud kitchen. We ran a Kerala cuisine restaurant in Chennai, which was highly in demand, I next wanted to market my product and service in a low but highly effective cost that made me turn toward free classifieds in India on the internet " Used by millions of people all over India. There are so many portals where one could place free classified ads such as Quikr, Olx, to name a few in the World.
Within a few months of me placing those free classifieds in India websites and using the social media to create awareness about my business, orders came rushing into my roof. I previously was just making 20 Grand running the restaurant business but then just in a few months it turned into 70 Grand, later a profitable amount of 100 Grand a month, I had to quit my job, which I wanted to do for a very long time, hire more chefs and delivery men. Our business got so much traction that people even started asking for our franchise. It was my humble opinion that we were not ready for a franchise yet, but we did manage to start another branch on the other end of the city which is also working great with the help of classifieds, and now I have incorporated YouTube marketing to the mix. We now have our own dedicated food channel that drives more consumers to try our products. I have also started learning to cook, I help out in the kitchen occasionally, for the first time there is nothing much to complain about in my life, free classifieds in India has converted me from miserable to satisfied.
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