One of the many staples in a typical Chinese family, congee easily makes yet another all-time comfort food. Mom has always been a congee lover herself; so growing up, we would have this served on the dining table more often than not. It sometimes would be eaten plain white alongside a couple of side dishes like salted duck eggs or omelet with preserved radish or plenty other options. Other times the congee would be prepared with additional ingredients added into the pot of congee itself. Regardless of the type of congee, it simply makes a great meal anytime throughout the day.
Relatively more digestible and gentle on the stomach, it is a great comfort food especially when one is under the weather. I grew up liking congee neutrally - loving it when it was served, not particularly missing it when it wasn't. Right to the day I got unwell and the misery stretched over a full week. Down with fever and zero appetite, congee was all that I had three times a day for the whole duration. The moment I got better was the moment I decided that I had had enough congee for the rest of my life (impulsive it might be, but that obviously was a history now lol).
For many years after, I despise congee altogether. Mom would have to prepare me an individual portion of dinner while the rest of the family had congee for meals and I would always skip the congee cart each time it was pushed passed our table at dim sum places. While I had fallen sick again and again many times after, I stood firm by my decision simply to be off it. Right until my very first trip to Hong Kong in 2009. Nathan Congee and Noodle 彌敦粥麵家 in Jordan was what changed me for good.
|lean pork with century egg congee at Nathan Congee and Noodle (photo credit to ShingWei)|
Velvety smooth like no others, I fell in love with the bowl of congee that very instant. I began to look out for good congee around ever since, and eventually started making my own at home. While they can never match the one I had back then, these are close enough, and definitely good enough.
Lean Pork with Century Egg Congee 皮蛋瘦肉粥
Adapted from tastehongkong.com
1 cup of brown jasmine rice
1/2lb pork tenderloin, cleaned and fat trimmed
3 century eggs, shelled and diced
*3 cups of anchovy or chicken stock
5-8 cups of water
salt to taste
2 stalks spring onion, chopped
1½ pairs of crispy crullers or more
3 eggs (optional)
*I had my anchovy stock readily made ahead of time
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cooking oil
1½ tsp salt
3 dashes white pepper powder
1. Pat dry the pork tenderloin with a paper towel. Rub salt all over on both sides followed by the white pepper powder next. Leave this to marinate refrigerated for as long as possible right until cooking time. I had this prepared early in the morning and left marinated for about 10 hours.
2. Rinse the rice with water thoroughly. Depending on the type of rice used, some may require more rinsing before the water starts running clear. I rinsed twice in my case. Add in the rice seasoning and let rest for about 45 minutes.
3. When the rice has been well seasoned, bring the stock together with 5 cups of water to boil in a stock pot. A point worth noting here is to make sure that the content in the pot is boiling before the seasoned rice is added in. The wave action from the boiling water reduces the possibility of the rice getting burnt when left sinking to the bottom of the pot otherwise.
4. Let boil on high heat for about 15 minutes before turning the heat down to low. Cook gently for another 1½ to 2 hours stirring from time to time. Again the cooking time depends on the type of grains used. Brown rice generally takes a longer time to disintegrate well.5. Have about three cups of water boiling ready by the side. Over time, the congee will get thickened. Keep the water level checked regularly - add in a little boiling water as needed to reach the right consistency. By the end of it, the rice grains should be thoroughly broken down appearing creamy and mushy. Finish by adding salt to taste.6. Keep an eye on the porridge, stirring once every few minutes while working on the pork next.7. Bring a small pot of water to boil. Blanch the pork briefly for about half a minute and drain.8. Put the pork to steam for about 10-15 minutes until done.9. Once cooled down enough, shred the pork with a fork and set aside.
10. To the pot of congee, add in the shredded pork and diced century egg. Stir to mix well.
11. Transfer a portion of the congee into a heated personal sized claypot. Let simmer for a minute before cracking in an egg (if any) right into the middle of the claypot.
12. Remove from heat. Finish by garnishing with some chopping spring onions, a round of light soy sauce and a dash of white pepper powder.
13. Serve hot with crispy crullers cut into bite sizes on the side.
Likewise, this can be served in an individual serving bowl. Claypot generally retains heat really well and the egg added at the end of it will get cooked over time by the heat preserved in the clay. If served in a bowl instead, make sure the egg is added to the pot of congee and cooked thoroughly before divided into individual portions. Served in any ways, the congee is great the way it is!