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Congee

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Has there been articles or a book written about all the various different "Ehinic" varieties of the basic "Congee" preperation. It seems to have different consistancy, taste and flavor, even varieties of Rice. Almost every place in Asia it always tastes good, but varies. The side dishes, seem more important to some, while others cook it into the congee, with only side seasonings. In some places there are different "Congees" served in the morning, with different ones served for "night supper".


I don't say that I do. But don't let it get around that I don't.

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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.

Haha! Me a Hokkien grandparent?!!! :raz::wub::wub:. Thank you for the kind words. Like Ondine, I'm relying on childhood memories, what we eat/cook most of the time and just checking with mum.

Titus, Ondine - How did the triple egg custard turn out?

We usually don't have salted duck eggs (ham tan) or preserved duck eggs (pei tan) on hand so we just steam the egg mixture on it own (jing sui tan).

Another couple of variations to the savoury custard is to steam the egg mixture with sliced "yau char kwai" (yu tiao); or with seasoned minced pork (jue yook jing tan), like Ondine's minced pork steamed with salted duck eggs but with plain eggs instead.

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Titus, Ondine - How did the triple egg custard turn out?

It was great! Next time I think I will double the recipe to feed all hands and maybe drizzle a bit of sesame oil at the end. I used a store-bought bottle of fried garlic (don't hate me) so I think the final dish lacked a bit of oomph. What's your take on the commercially available fried garlic? I'm assume you're clucking your tongue.

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What's your take on the commercially available fried garlic?  I'm assume you're clucking your tongue.

Don't know - haven't bought any before. :biggrin:

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...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...?

Shallots (hawm daeng): The  preferred onions for Thai cooking are red shallots; they are purplish red in color and come smaller than the orangish-brown shallots sold in American markets, which may be substituted. Although larger varieties such as yellow onions are grown in Thailand, most of them are exported and relatively few find their way into Thai dishes. Shallots give a greater depth of flavor when chopped and pounded to make curry and chilli pastes; on the other hand, when eaten raw in salads, they are sweet and mild, leaving much less of a lingering aftertaste or "onion breath." Their size can vary considerably, but because the amount used for most dishes is not critical, make your own rough estimate on how many to use based on the size of the batch you bought (i.e., if they are large and come as a double, count them as two, and so forth). Thai people use red shallots very generously, and like garlic, they are a fundamental ingredient in the cuisine.

For some curries and chilli pastes, shallots are roasted to give a smoky dimension. This may be done by placing them with their skin still on in a very hot toaster oven (450 degrees F.), or in a dry pan over a burner set at medium heat. Cut the root tip off first to keep them from bursting when heated up. Roast until softened all the way through and slightly charred on the outside. This may take 15-20 minutes. When roasting in a dry pan over the stove, turn them frequently. In Thailand, shallots are usually roasted in the charcoal brazier, which adds a much more pronounced smoky flavor.

Shallots are also fried into brown crispy pieces to sprinkle on salads and garnish finished dishes. Fry thin slices in plenty of oil (enough to submerge the pieces) in a wok or small pan until they turn golden brown. Because western shallots contain more moisture than Thai red shallots, they should be fried over low heat for a prolonged period of time (20 minutes or longer) to allow the slices to dry up before they brown. This ensures that the pieces turn crispy after they are drained from the oil and cooled. When fried at high temperatures, the pieces brown quickly but are likely to be soggy and greasy. When crisped properly, the shallot pieces absorb little oil and should not taste greasy. For western shallots, I find that slicing them crosswise into rings tend to produce more evenly crisped shallots than when they are sliced lengthwise.

While frying, you need to stir only occasionally until the pieces begin to turn color, then stir frequently to evenly brown to a rich shade of golden brown. They will shrink to a third or less of their original mass. Drain through a fine wire-mesh strainer balanced over a bowl to catch the remaining oil. Reserve this fragrant oil to add a delicious flavor to your stir-fried dishes. To reduce frying time, shallot slices may be pre-dried in a dehydrator, very low oven, or on a rack in the sun. If making your own crispy fried shallots seems too much trouble, look for pre-packaged products in Asian markets. The pieces should be loose and sound crispy when the container is tapped. A fairly good product now readily available is imported from Malaysia, packed for the Rockman Company, Inc., and is simply labeled "Fried Onion." [Nang Fah (Tue Kung) Brand distributed by V. Thai Food Products is crispy and delicious -- almost as good as fresh-fried shallots.]

Text Copyright © 2000 Kasma Loha-unchit in Dancing Shrimp: Favorite Thai Recipes for Seafood. See pages 68 & 69.

From: Adventures in Thai Cooking & Travel

:smile:

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I'm considering making congee for a group of friends next week. This thread has been a huge help in figuring out what additions to offer. But since I've never made it before -- only eaten it in restaurants -- I have a few questions:

1. If I have sliced fish, it would go in raw, yes? Are there any varieties of fish that are better to use than others?

2. Similar question wrt chicken: goes in raw, assuming shreds or small dice? Or should I pre-cook it?

3. Shredded lettuce: romaine? iceberg?

The only other consideration is that I have to keep the additions kosher. So no pork, no shellfish, no clams. :sad: Any other suggestions would be very much appreciated.

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Suzanne F:

I can't answer some of your questions authoritatively, partly because congee appears in many different versions with many different ingredients. I tend to think of it as a canvas. You supply the colors and the final result is left to the diner.

I've never had a congee with fresh seafood for example, but somewhere, someone's culture might allow for one. Raw fish and meat seem more likely ingredients for a fire pot (charcoal brazier) dining experience. I'm stretching my memory in order to recall that as a child, we sometimes had canned dace as an item paired with congee but I hesitate to recommend it as it is an acquired taste. I often see dried scallops/dried oysters tossed in for flavoring but your post contraindicates that as a possible ingredient.

As a kid I was infrequently treated to a rich chicken broth-based congee my grandma used to make from scratch, which was quite a treat. I've made congee on a few occasions from leftover roast duck. Flavored with a bit of tomato paste, it was a hit. The meat was already cooked when it went into the pot and the overall dish was none the worse for it. Most congee, however, seems to be simpler in flavor to begin with.

You may wish to concentrate a bit beforehand on getting the texture of your congee to your preference. I've burned congee in the past from carelessness and it's not something that is quickly rectified.

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My favorite version of jook (what I know as rice porridge...probably the Cantonese pronunciation) is indeed made with raw fish. You can get it a many all-night Chinese eating places in the SF, it's a favorite of those who indulge in late night majong sprees that last until the wee hours of the morning. The fish (it should be white, mild, fresh and from the sea (not fresh water)) comes on a little plate with cilantro and scallions strewn over it and dash of sesame oil and some light soya sprinkled on top. I'm guessing what I had was some sort of sea bass. You get your hot bowl of jook and slide the fish into the bowl, stir it around, and voila! Time to eat. The fish is sliced so thin that it cooks instantly. I liked it with plenty of white pepper and red chillies in dark soya as a condiment. The rest of the animal flesh that ends up in jook tends to be cooked along with the rice, flavoring the whole pot, which is sort of the point.

Like I mentioned before, adding glutinous rice flour dissolved in water to the jook right before serving results in a texture that I favor.

One last anecdote, the partner has been known to treat a bowl of oatmeal like jook (soya, chilli and sesame oils, green onions and deep fried shallots). I admit I tend towards the butter and brown sugar camp myself.

regards,

trillium

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Hi Suzanne

1. Fish congee - per what trillium says - thin fish slices (seasoned with some sesame oil and soya sauce, if desired). You can have it on a plate for each guest to add in or simply place it at the bottom of a bowl before ladling hot congee on top of it. We've used grass carp (freshwater), sea bass or garoupa. Have cilantro, scallions, julienned ginger, thinly sliced fried shallots, fried minced garlic, garlic / shallot oil, sliced yu tiao, white pepper and soy sauce on the side so that guests can add what they like to the congee.

2. Chicken is poached with some ginger slices and shredded. Use the chicken stock from poaching the chicken to cook the congee. Alternatively the poached chicken can be cut into pieces and arranged on a large platter to share topped with a dressing of soy sauce and sesame oil and some cilantro. Same condiments as in 1 above.

A less elegant more homey version is to cook chicken pieces (and chicken feet too, in our house) with the porridge.

3. Lettuce - iceberg - we usually have iceberg lettuce with fish ball and sea moss (fatt choy) porridge though, not with chicken or fish.

One other thing with cooking congee - I know this seems a bit strange but my mum says that one shouldn't stir congee while it is cooking. Once you stir it, you'll have to keep stirring till it's cooked, otherwise it'll stick to the bottom of the pot. If you need to add water to it, pour in it slowly at the side of the pot. I've tried it and it's true! An easier way is to just pop it in the crockpot and leave it to cook away.

trillium - I also eat my oatmeal savoury like congee and don't like it sweet. :biggrin:

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i never used to like the pork and thousand year egg jook when i was a kid. but now i do.

my favorite though is chiu chow jook.

(hey, let's marry the threads!!)

dice green peppers, onions, leftover meats, etc.

stir fried with some spices (now if I could also remember what spices)

throw that into the plain rice porridge.

mmm mmm good.


Herb aka "herbacidal"

Tom is not my friend.

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Shiewie, I was planning on using the crock pot -- I've got a nice 6-quart one. How long to cook, though, and on what setting?

I woke up in the middle of the night last night and made a list of all the items I thought I should offer -- by golly, almost a perfect match with yours! (Not bad for a middle-aged Jewish lady who grew up in Flushing long before the Asians came! :wink: ) I'd love to offer preserved egg, but that's maybe a bit too "exotic" for this bunch.

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Suzanne,

When we make it, we put about two or three cups of rinsed, uncooked rice in the crockpot, any other desired foodstuffs, and fill to within one to two inches short of the top.

We usually make it the night before so we'll bring it to a boil with the crockpot and then put it on low and leave it that way all night. Ready to eat in the morning!

:)

:smile:

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Suzanne, it's just like mudbug says (except we make less, only half cup to one cup of rice). There is an auto setting on our crockpot so we use that and leave it on through the night for at least 8 hours. If there's no auto setting on your crockpot, set it on high till it bubbles (if you use hot water / stock to start with, this takes a shorter time) then turn it down to low. If you find that the jook is too thick the next morning, just add more water/stock until it is the consistency you want.

I love preserved eggs (pei tan) with lots of pickled young ginger slices - but that may be a bit much for the uninitiated.

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Personally I prefer Japanese-style rice porridge, or zosui, which is more of a soupy-or nabemono type dish.

http://www.bob-an.com/recipe/dailyjc/basic...osui/zosui.html

Zosui is a wonderful way to finish up the soup and little bits of left over food in the nabe pot!

Unlike congee, zosui is made with rice that is already cooked so it is more of an instant meal, the Japanese dish of okayu is the slow simmered rice dish that is essentially the same as congee.

This okayu is one of the first foods babies in Japan eat, it is also the equivalent of the american chicken soup and is given when sick, it is also the first food you will be given in the hospital after any kind of operation.

Most rice cookers have an okayu setting and lines on the inner bowl to indicate how much water to add.

Some families cook the okayu for the babies right in the rice cooker WITH te rice for the rest of the family, a small rice bowl with a little rice and a lot of water is placed on top of the uncooked rice and water mixer in the rice cooker, when it is done perfect rice and perfect okayu, all done at the same time!

picture and recipe for okayu:

http://www.bob-an.com/recipe/dailyjc/ref/t...gayu/torig.html


<p><strong>Kristin Wagner</strong>, aka "torakris"

Manager, Membership

<a class="bbc_email" href="mailto:kwagner@egstaff.org" title="E-mail Link">kwagner@egstaff.org</a></p>

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Zosui is a lot like the pao fan of Jiangnan and parts north in China, which is not surprising since so much of Japanese culture is derivative of China's.

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Unlike congee, zosui is made with rice that is already cooked so it is more of an instant meal, the Japanese dish of okayu is the slow simmered rice dish that is essentially the same as congee.

there's yet something else called fan jew in cantonese.

basically, when most of the rice has been taken out of the pot, with some left on the bottom and sides, you put some water in and put on the stove to boil for about 5 minutes. actually, somewhere between boil and simmer, let's say 3/4 strength burner.

my dad eats this every time we have rice, just plain, nothing else in it.


Herb aka "herbacidal"

Tom is not my friend.

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Did congee for my friends last night; described on the Dinner thread. I used 1 cup plain rice and 1/2 cup jasmine, in the 6-quart slow cooker, just water and a little salt and white pepper. I'll have to check back in this thread to figure out what regional style that is (if any). Lots of garnishes to add, nothing particularly "exotic" (no pidan, although I did consider it). Everyone said they enjoyed it -- anyway, they ate well.

Thanks for all the help here. :biggrin:

But one more question: now I've got 3 quarts left over in the fridge; how long does it keep?


Edited by Suzanne F (log)

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It should keep for at least a couple of days. You can also freeze it in smaller portions for handy jook meals.

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Suzanne F--that sounds like your guests had a nice meal!

everyone else--thanks for your pointers/terminology/regional variations on congee-like dishes!

:smile:

so... now i feel a cold coming on :angry: and i'm going to make a huge stockpot of chicken soup.

suggestions for cold-beating garnishes? there's already going to be sambal oelek (chili paste), garlic, ginger, etc. in there. i don't mind if it's not 'authentic' to any one cuisine--i just want to beat the cold! :biggrin:

thanks in advance for any answers,

gus


"The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the ocean."

--Isak Dinesen

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gus -- don't forget the lemon or lime juice! (extra vitamin C). :biggrin:

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A few people have expressed concern over the "To stir or not to stir" issue of the congee.

I generally agree with the fact that constant stirring is tiresome, but can result in a nice smooth texture if carried out properly.

A trick my grandma taught me is to drop a porcelain soup spoon (the ones you get at PROPER Chinese noodle houses) into the pot. What happens is that while the congee/jook/chook bubbles away, it agitates the spoon which then sends mini-shockwaves through the rice gruel, minimising the risk of sticking to the base.

In any case, if there is a skin/casing remaining on the base of the pot, one would do well to scrape it off carefully and serve it with a light dipping sauce (chilli and soy, or whatever) as its pretty tasty stuff. If almost burnt, let it dry and treat like a snack in the kitchen.


"Coffee and cigarettes... the breakfast of champions!"

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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.

the english name for pidan is century egg :smile:


Edited by kOffkOff (log)

"A scholar who cherishes the love of comfort is not fit to be deemed a scholar."

- Lao-Tzu

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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.

the english name for pidan is century egg :smile:

where? the only name i've ever seen is thousand year old egg.

century is better, easier to manage, but i just haven't seen it.


Herb aka "herbacidal"

Tom is not my friend.

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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.

the english name for pidan is century egg :smile:

where? the only name i've ever seen is thousand year old egg.

century is better, easier to manage, but i just haven't seen it.

maybe a case of different naming in different regions. I live in Singapore, and century egg is the only name I've seen though.

just did a search over yahoo, and yeah these 2 names are both used. :biggrin:

my wrong heh


Edited by kOffkOff (log)

"A scholar who cherishes the love of comfort is not fit to be deemed a scholar."

- Lao-Tzu

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      Much of this is produced by small time farmers, although huge Chinese and international companies have also moved in.
       
      Also, sugar is used extensively in Chinese cooking, not only as a sweetener, but more as a spice. A little added to a savoury dish can bring out otherwise hidden flavours. It also has medicinal attributes according to traditional Chinese medicine.
       
      Supermarkets have what was to me, on first sight, a huge range of sugars, some almost unrecognisable. Here is a brief introduction to some of them. Most sugar is sold loose, although corner shops and mom 'n pop stores may have pre-packed bags. These are often labelled in English as "candy", the Chinese language not differentiating between "sugar" and "candy" - always a source of confusion. Both are 糖 (táng),

      IMPORTANT NOTE: The Chinese names given here and in the images are the names most used locally. They are all Mandarin Chinese, but it is still possible that other names may be used elsewhere in China. Certainly, non-Mandarin speaking areas will be different.

      By the far the simplest way to get your sugar ration is to buy the unprocessed sugar cane. This is not usually available in supermarkets but is a street vendor speciality. In the countryside, you can buy it at the roadside. There are also people in markets etc with portable juice extractors who will sell you a cup of pure sugar cane juice.


       
      I remember being baffled then amused when, soon after I first arrived in China, someone asked me if I wanted some 甘蔗 (gān zhè). It sounded exactly like 'ganja' or cannabis. No such luck! 甘蔗 (gān zhè) is 'sugar cane'.
       
      The most common sugar in the supermarkets seems to be 冰糖 (bīng táng) which literally means 'ice 'sugar' and is what we tend to call 'rock sugar' or 'crystal sugar'. This highly refined sugar comes in various lump sizes although the price remains the same no matter if the pieces are large or small. Around ¥7/500g. That pictured below features the smaller end of the range.


       
      Related to this is what is known as 冰片糖 (bīng piàn táng) which literally means "ice slice sugar". This is usually slightly less processed (although I have seen a white version, but not recently) and is usually a pale brown to yellow colour. This may be from unprocessed cane sugar extract, but is often white sugar coloured and flavoured with added molasses. It is also sometimes called 黄片糖  (huáng piàn táng) or "yellow slice sugar". ¥6.20/500g.
       


      A less refined, much darker version is known as 红片糖 (hóng piàn táng), literally 'red slice sugar'. (Chinese seems to classify colours differently - what we know as 'black tea' is 'red tea' here. ¥7.20/500g.


       
      Of course, what we probably think of as regular sugar, granulated sugar is also available. Known as 白砂糖 (bái shā táng), literally "white sand sugar', it is the cheapest at  ¥3.88/500g.



      A brown powdered sugar is also common, but again, in Chinese, it isn't brown. It's red and simply known as 红糖 (hóng táng). ¥7.70/500g


       
      Enough sweetness and light for now. More to come tomorrow.
    • By Dejah
      [Host's note: This topic forms part of an extended discussion which grew too large for our servers to handle efficiently.  The conversation continues from here.]
       
       
      Supper: Yeem Gok Gai:

      Mock Fried Rice - grated cauliflower

      Baby Shanghai Bok Choy and ginger

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