Cooking with Alison

Congee

In Dim Sum, Rice and Noodle Dishes on April 6, 2010 at pm

Congee (jook) is Chinese rice porridge that can be served at any meal time (from breakfast to late night snack).  It can be a meal within itself or, if served plain, it can act as the rice substitute when eaten with meat and vegetable dishes.  Also, it is kind of like the Chinese equivalent to the Western chicken soup cold/flu remedy.  Congee is made by boiling rice in excess water.  Depending on the region in China, the texture, wateriness, seasoning, and accompanying side dishes of congee vary significantly.  So make it to your taste.  I like it all ways but I prefer congee that has been boiled until the rice breaks down, becomes very soft, and results in a slightly watery, semi-thick porridge.  Sometimes, I use my immersion blender to give the congee a smooth, homogenized consistency.

The best accompaniment for any congee is deep fried dough sticks (you tiao / yau char kwai). When I’m eating plain congee (on its own and not as a rice substitute), my favourite side dishes are the flavourful and cost effective salted duck eggs (see recipe here), spicy fermented bean curd, preserved vegetables with chili (ie. radish or turnip), pickled lettuce stems, or shredded dried pork (also known as meat floss).  I also love ground white pepper in my congee. To make plain congee, use my recipe below but omit the pork and preserved duck egg.

Here are some popular congee ingredient options:

  • Congee is often made with just one additional ingredient – Chinese dried scallops.  These break up into threads to add a hint of saltiness, depth in flavour, and a chewy texture.
  • You can make congee with any type of meat, fish, or seafood.
  • You can even use turkey bones leftover from thanksgiving.
  • A popular type of congee is called sampan congee (tang jai jook).  This varies greatly depending on where it’s served, but it always contains seafood (such as cuttlefish, squid, or fish) and is always garnished with peanuts. I’ve seen sampan congees that had pork, preserved duck eggs and pork skin as well. 
  • You could make pork stomach congee or you could make pork liver and kidney congee.  (I love pork kidney congee.  Be sure to use the freshest pork kidney and try to find ones that have already been cleaned by the butcher.  Simply slice and add to the congee at the end.  Bring the congee back to a boil and don’t overcook the pork kidney.)
  • A lot of people like to add Chinese dried oysters to their congee (I’m not a fan).  ork liver and kidney (I love pork kidney congee). 
  • My favourite type of congee is preserved duck egg and lean pork (my recipe below).   You can use my recipe below and replace the pork and preserved duck egg with whatever ingredient(s) you prefer.  Just keep in mind that certain ingredients (such as fish) should be added later in the cooking process so they don’t get overcooked.

This is a thicker congee made with about 5 cups of water. I prefer my congee made using 9 cups of water, but the thicker congee makes for a better rice substitute.

Preserved duck eggs

IMG_0204

Cleaned pork kidneys

Preserved Duck Egg and Pork Congee Recipe

To make plain congee, just omit the pork and preserved duck eggs.  You could also substitute the pork and preserved duck egg with any other meat, bones, seafood, and/or entrails that you prefer. Just keep in mind that certain ingredients should be added earlier in the cooking process (ie. bones and certain entrails) while other ingredients (ie. fish) should be added later in the cooking process so they don’t get overcooked.

1/2 cup white rice

6 to 9 cups cold water, depending on your preferred consistency

2 preserved duck eggs (also known as century or hundred year old egg)

1/2 lb pork tenderloin

salt

green onions sliced thinly for garnish (optional)

white pepper (optional)

If you pre-soak your rice in water for several hours, you will get a smoother consistency that takes less time to cook.  However, this is not necessary.  I usually skip the pre-soaking and simply rinse the rice under cold water prior to using.

Put the pork into the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes to make it easier for you to slice it into thin strips.  Marinate the pork with a large pinch of salt for 30 minutes to 1 hour and leave it in the fridge until you need to use it.

Peel the shell from the duck eggs.  Wash the eggs very well.  Using a thin, sharp knife, quarter the eggs lengthwise into wedges and then cut each wedge into 2 or 3 pieces.  Set aside.

Put the rice and water into a large heavy-bottomed pot, put the lid on, and heat over high heat.  Stir occasionally to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pot and burning.  When you achieve a rolling boil, turn the heat down (between low and medium low) to maintain a gentle boil when the pot is covered.  Continue cooking for 40 minutes during which time you should stir occasionally to prevent burning.  Adjust the water and your cook time to achieve your desired consistency.  You could boil your congee for up to 1 1/2 hours in total.  Add the preserved duck egg and continue cooking for 10 more minutes at a gentle boil, stirring occasionally.  Add the pork and bring the congee to a boil.  Cook for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally.  Ladle into bowls and garnish with green onions (optional).  Serve with white pepper.  If you prefer more flavour, you could add some soy sauce but I personally don’t like soy sauce in my congee.

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  1. Oh my goodness, congee! I love it when I find out that I’m not a weird duckling and that there are others out there with the same experiences that I’ve had. I indeed did use to (and still do) eat congee when I am sick. That’s the first thing that my mom makes when a sickness falls on my household, “You did not eat enough soup or congee! I must make it now and you must eat it!”

    Cool, I usually eat pork and century egg congee ;] ‘Cept that my mom puts the salted pork in the congee at the beginning. I tried to make my own congee the other day since I’m in another city for school, and to save time, I tried to make it using the slow cooker. The result made me sad. Thus, next time, I will go to the stove top or the mother.

    • Thanks so much for your comment! I think most people put their pork into the congee at the very beginning. I’ve heard that it counteracts the “yeet hay” or ‘heat’ of the congee. But I don’t like the texture of slowly cooked or overcooked meat so I add my pork at the end 🙂 Thanks for the tip about avoiding the slow cooker for congee 🙂

  2. Thanks for the great recipes! Do you also have a recipe for the yau char gwai? Congee just isn’t congee without them to me!

  3. I normally add a large slice of ginger to the soup mixture when cooking the rice. I don’t know how it would taste with the duck eggs though.

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