(mum’s version always has dried scallops for added sweetness)
Congee and fried dough. 白粥油炸鬼
The story behind this dish speaks to one of the foundational dishes of the Chinese culture, which is my heritage.
Congee (pronounced as ‘jook’ in Cantonese), is jasmine rice boiled down till soft, much like porridge. There used to be a shop selling congee at every Hong Kong street, and the good ones will have queues from early in the morning.
A good Hong Kong style congee can be described as creamy with a consistency similar to a thick soup. It should neither be runny or gloopy. There is a good amount of water, yet it isn’t watery. The grains should have broken down and not be wholly visible.
This can be eaten as any meal of the day, and is our go-to when we feel under the weather or needing a bit of a detox after big meals.
The variation to the congee is in the food you add to it. Mince, chicken, squid, dried scallops, fish and fried dough… Whatever you like.
My favourite is a very simple salted pork shoulder. The pork shoulder is marinated with a generous amount of salt and Chinese wine and this is cooked in the rice congee. When it’s done, the meat is pulled apart and eaten with condiments all mixed in with the congee.
This is what my mum cooks for me whenever I was sick, whenever we’ve returned home from our travels. Since I have lived apart from my parents for the last 20ish years, it’s a dish that always reminds me of her loving care. It’s also a meal that my NZ-born daughter loves and I hope she will one day master it. Ironically it only took a week-long hospital stay for me to finally write this recipe down…
- 3/4 jasmine or long grain rice
- 6 cups of water (more to adjust thickness)
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 tbsp salt
- (or for a quick version, use left over cooked rice that has been frozen)
- 400g pork shoulder
- 1 tbsp chinese shaoxing wine
- 2 tbsp salt
- 8 cups of water
- Fried shallots
- Spring onions
- Fried dough 油炸鬼
- Crispy fish skin
- Seaweed paste (Japanese)
- Salted egg 咸蛋(see recipe at the end. Duck eggs is traditionally used, but substitute with chicken eggs if you can’t find duck eggs. )
- Preserved egg 皮蛋(preserved with a mixture of clay, ash, salt, quick lime and rice hulls for several weeks.)
- Marinade meat with chinese wine and salt over night.
- Rinse rice and drain slightly. Place in a small bowl and sprinkle the salt over rice grains and mix in oil. Add just enough water to cover the grains. Set aside for 20 mins. This helps the grains break down faster and congee will later cook quicker (reach the right creaminess faster).
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the soaked rice, which should have developed cracked lines along the grains, into the boiling water.
- Keep it at a rolling boil for 10 minutes, stiring often. Turn it down to a medium boil, and cook for a further 5-10 minutes. The rice grains should have puffed up and slightly broken down by now.
- Add the meat, and let it simmer for 1.5 hours. Remember to stir often to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom (this is easier if you have a thermos cooker or crock pot, where it keeps the hot temperature of the pot inside another capsule, so that the food continues to cook without needing to stand by the stove).
- Check for creaminess often, adding water if it becomes too thick.
- Remove pork and shred to small pieces. Set aside.
- Place ladles of hot congee into bowls, add shredded pork and serve with toppings.
- If you want to have other protein like beef slices, chicken thigh pieces, fish or squid: instead of the shredded pork, you can cook your protein towards the end. I usually have a second pot ready and when the big pot of plain congee is ready, I will scooop half of that into the second pot and cook the meat in it. That way I will always have some plain congee as the base for a second flavour.
To make Salted eggs:
- First find a jar that will fill 8 eggs.
- Remove the eggs and fill the jar with water half way.
- Pour the water in a pan and add enough salt to make a saturated salt solution i.e. Where it has so much salt dissolved in, it can’t dissolve anymore. That’s when you see salt crystals still appear with lots of mixing. You may need 500g salt at least.
- Warm the salt solution up on the stove, with 2 tea bags and 3 tbsp of shaoxing wine. Let it cool.
- Place eggs into jar and pour the cooled salt solution in. Make sure eggs are completely submerged with liquid and doesn’t float up. You may have to put a small plate in the hold the eggs down. Close lid and place in a dark corner or the pantry for 30 to 40 days.
- Cook by boiling the eggs in hot water for 8 minutes. Shell and serve with congee.
- The salted yolk can be used to make the glutinous wrapped parcels too.