@devora: "Congee is my favorite sick day food". Ahhh, the poor girl is down with food poisoning recently, so I thought, hmm, perhaps a congee review?
It is true, for some reason, that's what brought to mind for me too! I do not particularly like congee but this is quite a typical food to be given when one is sick in Asia. I hate this as a child when I was sick, all I want was beef balls ;-) Now, when I am sick, I don't want congee either; but, abalone might just do the trick, hehe...
Commonly known as porridge in Asia (congee is probably an American "slang" for porridge?), it is actually a Chinese dish as far as my memory serves me. After having spent a few years in China, I'm even more convinced of this. I've never seen more congee/porridge restaurants anywhere else! Zhou (粥) or Xifan (稀饭) is the Chinese term for congee. Bubur is Indonesian & Malaysian term. Chok is Thai which incidentally sounds very Cantonese. Lugaw is its Tagalog term. In Japan, it's known as Okayu.
Generally, it's the simplest thing to cook, if you know how to cook rice. Even for an idiot 'chef' like me, I can manage congee pretty well. As long as I remember I've congee on the stove, that is! But to make life easier, the wonder of technology has rendered some rice cookers congee cookers too! Especially those made in Japan & those sold in China. Cooking congee is an art though. You need patience to cook a good bowl of congee. This applies even to the restaurant chefs! If you have tried a few congee places in either Hong Kong or Shanghai, you'd know to differentiate the good ones from the bad.
For those living in San Francisco & L.A. or Toronto & Vancouver, you're in luck. There are lots of congee places and you'd have plenty of opportunities to try them. I like Toronto's Congee Wong which serves real good congee. My favorite is their Kidney & Liver Congee! Yum!
Now, I'm not asking you to simply try a bowl of plain congee. That's only for sick people, as far as I'm concerned. Sick as down with some flu and not perverts, if you know what I mean ;-) The Chinese are great with cooking, even something as simple as congee is really not that simple if they wish to sell them in restaurants. Hence, many restaurants have come up with a huge variety of flavors, including abalone & scallop congee.
What I'd like to review is not those fancy congee but a very regular (though not so regular if you're not Chinese) congee which is served almost anywhere that serves congee & that's the Century Egg & (Lean) Pork Congee (Pidan shourou zhou,皮蛋瘦肉粥). Have you ever heard of Century Egg? Nah, it doesn't take that long to lay the egg!
Century Egg (Pidan in Chinese, 皮蛋) is preserving duck egg by wrapping it within a mixture of ash, clay, salt, lime & rice hulls for weeks. During the preserving process, the egg yolk becomes dark green (almost black) with a tint of ammonia while the egg white turns jelly like as pictured. Century eggs can be eaten without any cooking. It is best with slices of pickled ginger. It is served as cold dish in Shanghai with some chilled tofu. As far as my knowledge goes, only Asians like this (& not all of them either). So, you truly have to be gutsy to try this! What Chinese households and restaurants do is to cut up this egg in small cubes and cook them with lean pork in a pot of congee. Hence, the candidate of this review. This congee is very popular in Cantonese dimsum and also congee restaurants. There is no chance that you won't find this as long as they do serve congee in their menus. My advise is for you to try the congee first before trying the egg on its own. Otherwise, my guess is you'll puke! ;-) But trust me, this is a lot more palatable than balut!!! :-)
Recently, I found another way this egg is being prepared and that's cooking it with Snow Pea Shoots (Dou Miao, 豆苗), a Chinese vege, and Salted duck egg. This is one fine dish! If you're a Chinese reader, try to find this on the menu of the Chinese restaurant you frequent. It's delicious!
Anyhow, try it, who knows, you might fall in love with it ;p
By the way, for the less adventurous, you may want to try fish slices congee or beef congee. Otherwise, plain congee with deep fried fritters (you tiao, 油条) or salted duck egg is good too.
Taiwanese Congee Taiwanese love their congee with sweet potato. If you want some healthy living and is suffering from food poisoning, this may well be the congee for you! Great for vegetarians too! ;-)
Indonesian Congee (Bubur Ayam)
Bubur Ayam literally translates to congee chicken. As you can see clearly from the picture, this is basically Chicken porridge with peanuts and fried crackers. The chicken is fried, deboned and shred and serves as a garnish. Bubur Ayam, like Nasi Goreng, is a popular breakfast food. My guess is that the readers on Lunch.com may actually prefer Bubur Ayam than the traditional Chinese congee as it is more 'acceptable' and thereby rendering it more delicious too. What do you think? :-)
I googled for Bubur Ayam and found this recipe in case if you are interested in cooking it yourself. Have fun experimenting!
Japanese Okayu The Japanese has a habit of eating congee for breakfast too. However, most of them eat plain congee with side dishes like pickles (umeboshi), nori & layered omelette (tamagoyaki).
One last note about congee, don't eat too much of it, especially in a cold weather environment. Else you'll be looking for washroom in no time! ;-) There is afterall a lot of liquid in it. It's no wonder it's considered a sick food by many. It does help the digestive system ;-)