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gus_tatory

Congee

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hi e-gulleters--

i'm a westerner who loves "pho" (vietnamese soupe tonkinoise), risotto, and brothy soups. i would like to make congee at home for the first time, and i'm wondering what people's favourite ingredients are?

i guess i would like a slow-simmered chicken broth, mint, basil, and coriander leaf, some bean sprouts and sesame oil, but that is my imagined recipe hehe...

:-)

if you were to suggest a congee for me to try, what would be in it?

thaks in advance for your thoughts!

gus_tatory in montreal

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gus_tatory welcome to egullet!

My favorites for congee (or the Japanese okayu) are kimchi, pine nuts and a still soft hard boiled egg.

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hi e-gulleters--

i'm a westerner who loves "pho" (vietnamese soupe tonkinoise), risotto, and brothy soups. i would like to make congee at home for the first time, and i'm wondering what people's favourite ingredients are?

I join Kris in welcoming you!

Well, I've never made congee, but I've eaten a fair number of bowls of it.

My favorite congees? Here's a list of things I've had within the past few years and favored:

Sliced fish with ginger

Sliced chicken with black mushrooms

Shredded crab

Sliced beef and fish

Essentially, ginger is always a good ingredient to add; cilantro on top adds a lot, garlic is always good (use to taste), you need some kind of broth, and you might consider putting some fried shallots on top. I think that what you use is all up to you.

But I have never had congee as good as the first times I had it, on the Hai Xing Shipping Lines Hong Kong-to-Shanghai cruise (kind of a 2 1/2-day ferry). I don't know why it was so much better than any other congee I've ever had since, but I remember that the ingredients other than rice and liquid were a lot of custardy egg, and small, very flavorful scraps of fried (somewhat blackened) onions, somewhat bacony roast pork, and scallions. I'm not sure what else went into it - probably chicken stock. Boy, was that a good breakfast!!!!

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The best congee I ever had was actually in an airplane if you can believe it.

China Air's first class form Tokyo to Hawaii, they brought out a trolley with about 20 or so toppings to choose from.

I don7t know what made it so good but I just remeber thinking that it was better then any of the ones I had on my Hong Kong/Macau trip the month before.

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One inch chunks of diced pork shoulder, and a can of Asian "White Beans" (really - that's all it says on the can!)

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Well, I like adding waxed duck wings and dried Chinese vegetables to mine, but I don't think that's what you're looking for. That, was, though, the classic ingredients my mom used for her rustic weekend congees.

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I like making a plain congee with just a bit of salt, white pepper, and ginger. Minimal amounts.

And serving it with fifteen or so things that can be added to it as one eats. Such as chile oil, braised pork belly or slices of roast pork, various grilled fish, dried shrimp, toasted nuts, fried greens.

This way the versatility of congee and how it picks up and carries flavours becomes an interesting feature of the meal.

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What is texture of the congee that everyone likes?

The smooth Cantonese style of congee that's been boiled longer or the more grainy type Hokkien (Fu Chien) and Teo Chiew (Chiu Chow) style that is sort of like soft rice with water? The Hokkien / Teo Chiew style is sometimes cooked with chunks of sweet potato (a legacy of WWII when rice was scarce).

I like the smooth Cantonese style of congee / porridge but love myriad of dishes served with the Hokkien / Teo Chiew style of congee especially this dish of steamed Spanish mackerel with soy sauce and fermented soy beans.

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Odd that no one's mentioned it, but I think an essential ingredient in congee is pidan, a.k.a. Thousand Year Old Egg.

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I'll tell you which type I *DON'T* like. When I was growing up in Queens, my folks, who are Shanghainese, preferred xi fan (zhou or jook) with a consistency resembling wallpaper glue. That is to say, it was made with less water, no salt, no broth whatsoever, no ginger, no scallion, and simmered for a shorter period of time. They consumed vast quantities of the stuff through the winter with very few side dishes -- i.e., pork sung, spanish peanuts, and sometimes, a can of pickled cucumbers. Yech. I felt like a workhouse orphan. In fact, I got into hot water a few times for objecting too strenuously.

Nowadays, when they visit, I will typically serve a broth-based zhou (sometimes duck, if I have a carcass leftover from dinner), with a higher proportion of fluid to rice, and with a couple of dried scallops thrown in good measure. To keep peace at the breakfast table, I refrain from adding anything else to their bowls, although I offer plenty of garnishes, including thin slices of red-cooked chicken gizzards, sliced pi dan, sliced xian dan (salt-cured eggs), preserved mustard greens, doufu yu (spicy fermented tofu) and whatever leftovers I may have sitting around.

Can anyone tell me if my folks' version is truer to the actual Shanghainese paradigm? I hesitate to unjustly impugn Shanghainese cooks with this imputation -- after all, both my parents worked and neither really had the time to make a fancy breakfast.

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Definitely the Cantonese version, although the Hokkien version comes a close second.

My folks, who are from Fukien province by way of the Philippines, made a version that was close to the Hokkien style (no sweet potato though). A favorite topping of ours was stir-fried pork with minced garlic and fermented black beans, along with the obligatory scallions, sesame oil and ginger.

Soba

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Can anyone tell me if my folks' version is truer to the actual Shanghainese paradigm?  I hesitate to unjustly impugn Shanghainese cooks with this imputation -- after all, both my parents worked and neither really had the time to make a fancy breakfast.

My wife, her sister and her mother (all fairly recent immigrants from Shanghai) make something like you mentioned, called "pao fan". It's really just leftover rice that's been boiled a short time in a little water, and often she will only put pickled vegetables in it. It's quick and easy, and also a useful prop for her melodramatics: when she's feeling put out, or sorry for herself, it'll be "Me? I'll just eat pao fan," even at dinner time. She will, however, make a more conventional zhou, especially if she has some pidan handy to put in it.

When going out for breakfast, or picking it up from the local food stall, I think Shanghainese tend to prefer savory dou jiang, invariably with you tiao.

It's nothing against Shanghainese home cooking, it's just that they really don't do breakfasts. My wife is an excellent cook, as is her mother.

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When you make the Cantonese style, a nice granny trick is to mix some glutinous rice flour with water and stir it in and let it simmer for a few minutes right before eating. It gives the jook a nicer mouthfeel and texture.

regards,

trillium

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Growing up the variety of congee we always had was Teochew style. It was quite watery, with still identifiable (if very soft) grains in a thickened but still soupy plain liquid. Sometimes a handful of shelled peanuts (still in their red skins ) were boiled with the rice.

We often had it with sides like hard-boiled salted duck egg (split lenghtwise and scooped out piecemeal with eating spoon), dry-fried salt anchovies (ikan bilis) and chye poh omelette (gold fried sheets of omelette embedded with bits of chopped preserved salt-sweet vegetable). Maybe a few shreds of toasted nori. Sometimes maybe a little red-cooked or soy-stewed (loh bak) pork leg or belly, stewed with hard-boiled eggs, spongy tofu (taukwa) and unpeeled garlic cloves.

The plain congee was most often eaten as a light meal (possibly after a few days of heavy restaurant meals) with leftovers. Teochew-style (ie, slightly watery) is best made with leftover cooked rice boiled in more water. Boiling raw rice in water results in a much thicker, pastier congee, without separated grains, as the rice grains absorb far more of the water.

The dry-caramelised onions mentioned earlier are an institution of my childhood as they are tiny red shallots (the size of fat garlic cloves), peeled and thinly sliced, then painstakingly deep fried until they are not quite on the point of burning. They were intensely fragrant and crumbly, and doled out to be scattered over clear soups and congee. They were terribly labour-intensive and only ever made at home. The commercial varieties were regarded as little better than pencil shavings in flavour and texture.

Oh dear, now I am getting so very nostalgic.

:sad::smile:

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...and chye poh omelette (gold fried sheets of omelette embedded with bits of chopped preserved salt-sweet vegetable).   Maybe a few shreds of toasted nori.  Sometimes maybe a little red-cooked or soy-stewed (loh bak) pork leg or belly, stewed with hard-boiled eggs, spongy tofu (taukwa) and unpeeled garlic cloves...

The dry-caramelised onions mentioned earlier are an institution of my childhood as they are tiny red shallots (the size of fat garlic cloves), peeled and thinly sliced, then painstakingly deep fried until they are not quite on the point of burning.  They were intensely fragrant and crumbly, and doled out to be scattered over clear soups and congee.  They were terribly labour-intensive and only ever made at home. The commercial varieties were regarded as little better than pencil shavings in flavour and texture. 

Oh dear, now I am getting so very nostalgic.

:sad:  :smile:

Ondine, I am intrigued about some of the toppings you describe. How did you/your folks prepare the "chye poh" omelette? Would this be two/three eggs scrambled with minced zha cai (preserved Sichuan vegetable), and then poured into a well-oiled wok? You would end up with a large, thin pancake if you made sure to glaze the sides of the wok evenly, which you could then tear up with a spatula. Alternatively, you could fold it, lift the whole thing out, and carefully slice it. Is that what you mean? If so, it sounds very simple and delicious and I would be interested in trying it with congee. Would you add salt, or does the zha cai provide enough already? Does it have any other ingredients?

Also, I've never seen the "tiny red shallots (the size of fat garlic cloves)" that you describe, although I've seen plenty of the commercial variety, usually marketed as deep-fried "red onions" in jars. Are the smaller shallots available in the U.S., and do you leave the shallots whole, or mince them? How long do they keep for (can they be made a day in advance)?


Edited by titus wong (log)

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How did you/your folks prepare the "chye poh" omelette?  Would this be two/three eggs scrambled with minced zha cai (preserved Sichuan vegetable), and then poured into a well-oiled wok? You would end up with a large, thin pancake if you made sure to glaze the sides of the wok evenly, which you could then tear up with a spatula.  Alternatively, you could fold it, lift the whole thing out, and carefully slice it.  Is that what you mean?

I'n not familiar with "chye poh" but my wife prepares a very thin omelette "sheet" for making dan juan (egg rolls that are really "egg rolls"). The savory stuff gets mixed with the ground pork stuffing, however. The skin is microscopically thin and it's a marvel how easily she can remove it from the wok without breaking it. If this is what Ondine means, I think 1-2 eggs would be plenty, depending on size of your wok.

She also makes a much thicker omelette-like (more fritatta-like, really) concoction with scrambled eggs and pickled vegetables as an "emergency" main dish, but it's much too thick to be characterized as a "sheet".

Parenthetically, she also likes to stew red-cooked pork belly or paigu with shelled hard-boiled eggs. I wonder if that's a Shanghainese influence on Ondine's parents cooking or a Chaozhou influence on my wife's. The preparation of the congee Ondine describes also sounds like my wife's paofan.

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How did you/your folks prepare the "chye poh" omelette?  Would this be two/three eggs scrambled with minced zha cai (preserved Sichuan vegetable), and then poured into a well-oiled wok? You would end up with a large, thin pancake if you made sure to glaze the sides of the wok evenly, which you could then tear up with a spatula.  Alternatively, you could fold it, lift the whole thing out, and carefully slice it.  Is that what you mean?  If so, it sounds very simple and delicious and I would be interested in trying it with congee.  Would you add salt, or does the zha cai provide enough already?  Does it have any other ingredients?

Chye poh (Hokkien or choy poh in Cantonese) is preserved radish. There are 2 types of chye poh - salted or sweetened and you can get them either whole, in segments or minced. Here's a picture of the whole salted version (we've only used the salted version).

64952.gif

To make a chye poh omelette, stir-fry minced garlic and minced chye poh in oil (you can rinse it quickly first to get rid of some of the salt) till the garlic is translucent and starting to become golden. Add 3 to 4 eggs that have been whisked together with a some salt and pinch of pepper and scramble until eggs are cooked and slightly brown.

Sliced chye poh is also very good stir-fried with garlic and fatty pork - I want to eat bowlsful of rice whenever there is "choy poh chow jue yook" for dinner.

Also, I've never seen the "tiny red shallots (the size of fat garlic cloves)" that you describe, although I've seen plenty of the commercial variety, usually marketed as deep-fried "red onions" in jars.  Are the smaller shallots available in the U.S., and do you leave the shallots whole, or mince them?  How long do they keep for  (can they be made a day in advance)?

I think the shallots we get in Malaysia and Singapore must be a slightly different variety from what you get in the US. Here's a pic of it (there is also a variety where the skin is a purplish red - these are the kind we usually buy)

445sha.jpg - see Asia Food's Glossary for more details.

I've tried using the larger white shallots for curries in Australia and NZ - they're similar in taste but the flavour is not quite as intense.

To make deep-fried shallots, slice them thinly and deep-fry till they are golden brown. Remove the golden-brown shallots with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to cool. Store the cool deep-fried shallots in an air-tight container in the fridge.

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Are the smaller shallots available in the U.S... How long do they keep?

Titus,

Yes, they're available. We may never know the exact variety/cultivar but can get close.

There are several mail order garden catalogs which sell shallots and multiplier onions which are closely related. They are usually sold by the pound or half pound so you could plant some and save some to use for cooking. They will keep for six to eight months under good storage conditions (cool and dry).

Nichols Garden Nursery

Le Jardin du Gourmet

Territorial Seed Company

The Cook's Garden

Richters

Vermont Bean Seed Has a spicy Holland Red variety.

Kings Seed Red Sun variety.

:smile:


Edited by mudbug (log)

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Sorry for taking so long to reply to you Titus, expecially as it seems that Shiewie has largely answered your question about the chye poh. :laugh: Our family always used the minced, salted variety. It would be soaked for a few minutes (depending on how salty you like it) before getting blended in with the beaten egg. We liked it fried in a sort of middling thickness, about a 1/4 inch, that could be easily cut into portions for the family. Sometimes if my grandmother was dining with us we'd add a little sugar to the mix.

The tiny red shallots I have only ever seen in Asia. They ranged from hazelnut-sized to about quail-egg sized. The golden shallots I see in Australia where I live now are 2-3 times the size and nowhere near as intense in flavour. Once fried, the shallots were never drained too well (the infused oil was as fragrant as the shallots themselves) and kept almost indefinitely in the fridge. I myself have a containerfull stashed away in the freezer that is no less than 3 years old, but is still wonderful.

A great simple dish you could try with congee, Titus, is one that my grandmother used to make when we were kids.

For 4 people, you need 2 salted duck eggs and about 500g (just over a pound) of minced pork. Separate out the whites of the eggs and blend them with the pork, a clove of minced garlic, salt and pepper. Spread this mixture out in an even layer on an oiled plate that fits in your steamer. The salted raw yolks are thick and malleable, like dough. Cut each in two, and flatten each half. Arrange the yolk halves on top of the pork patty and steam the whole until done. Don't worry about the thickness of the patty as this dish is very forgiving of an extra few minutes of steaming. It's wonderful with congee! :biggrin:

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Oh my, ask a question and receive an embarassment of riches! Thanks everyone! I'm really overwhelmed by the thoughtful responses you've all provided. It's amazing how much I've learned from this forum in a short space of time. Mudbug has leapt to my rescue whenever a question concerning horticulture or the latin name for a specific vegetable arises with considerate replies and helpful links. Shiewie has turned into my Hokkien grandparent with plenty of advice to relate regarding homestyle Chinese cooking (SW -- I'm still looking for tung choy at my local grocery!). Gary Soup gently corrects my pinyin. And thanks Ondine, for piquing my interest of late and for the recipe tip for rou bing, another dish from my youth not to be found on restaurant menus. I make a passable rou bing myself, but will give your version a try (I assume minced pork is the same as ground pork). I still have four xian dan left over from the half-dozen I purchased for making Shiewie's Steamed Triple Egg Custard.

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eh?

Shiewie's Steamed Triple Egg Custard

Sounds fabulous, did a search for it and can't find any reference... could you post the recipe please?

TIA

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Gary Soup gently corrects my pinyin. 

Not trying to correct anyone's pinyin. I stubbornly stick to pinyin myself because the profusion of transliterations (formal and ad hoc) and variants gives me a headache. (How many ways are there to render "Chaozhou", anyway?)

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I've always enjoyed the simplicity of "plain" white congee. You have to make it with dried scallops and ginko nuts, sometimes added "fu chook" (dried bean curd sheets) is nice also, this gives you a nice base to add whatever flavours you want on top. Salted pork is always a good standby as the base flavour. My favourite when I go out to eat is "gold-silver egg" congee, which has both the preserved duck eggs and thousand-year eggs. To get the Cantonese consistency, my mom always taught me to "wash" the rice with coarse salt and oil. good luck experimenting.

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Lovely to be of help, Titus! :biggrin:

I do confess as a rather junior member of the eGullet forums (in age as well as experience) I often feel as if i have little to add. Who would've thunk that my childhood memories would be so useful? :biggrin:

And I had no idea that the salted-egg-steamed-pork dish even had a name! Mind you, there were always arguments in the family over whether it was better to use coarsely minced or finely ground pork.

Shiewie's 'Triple-Egg Custard' conjures up visions of an almost chawanmushi variant. Would it be possible to post a recipe, Shiewie? I have had a rolled omelette cooked with roughly diced salt duck egg and century egg mixed in. It was very tasty!

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      Tiramisu.
       

      Outside view of the restaurant. Very casual!
      On the way home I enjoyed a local IPA. Craft beer is a big thing in Japan at the moment (as probably anywhere else in the world), so at 29 oC in front of the train station I had this. Very fruity …

       
      When I came back to the hotel, the turn down service had made my bed and placed a little Origami crane on my pillow. You just have to love this attention to detail.

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