Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Jook! It's Congee!

Jook is the Cantonees name for Congee; or what I like to call, an asian version of Risotto.  Although, while Risotto is more synonymous with fine dining cuisine, Congee is a staple dish in the asian household, and can be made as simple or elaborate as you like, depending on what you put into it.  As rice is a mild, easily digestive, yet filling grain, this porrige-like soup is the perfect meal to serve to those who are suffering from colds, digestive problems, and other ailments that where the stomach is sensitive.  My earliest memories of childhood include my Mom giving me a warm bowl of plain Congee, salted lightly, to comfort me when I was sick.  It also reminds me of our family trip to Hong Kong when I was 8 or 9, where my aunt made a huge pot of Congee, and I ate, like, 6 bowls of it.  It's basically a story my relatives like to recount, every time I see them.  Then there was the time when I got my wisdom teeth pulled, and all I could manage to eat was Congee.  And basically, every Sunday when I was growing up, my Mom would make a delicious chinese lunch, with fried noodles, and various types of Congee.  It's probably my all-time favorite dish.

For the longest time, I could never make Congee right.  The consistency was always off.  But, recently, with the help of my Mom and a friend, I found an alternate way of making Congee, that actually works! 

There are sooo many different varieties of congee, from plain, to preserved egg and sliced pork; preserved egg and fish; congee with a variety of seafood; to chicken...and the list goes on.  At restaurants, you can also order congee with, what is called in English, Fried Donut Stick (better than the literal translation of "Oil Stick").  It's not really a donut, but more like a dough stick that's deep fried.  It's the perfect dipping companion to Congee.  My favorite Congee is preserved egg and pork.  Second favorite: salmon/white fish congee.  Preserved egg and fish is, thus, a great combination, in my opinion.  And that's what I decided to make today.

The Ingredients:

From left to right: Swanson chicken broth, bean curd stick, jasmine rice, preserved duck eggs, ginger

Close-up on the preserved duck egg

The Preparation:

After combining the rice, broth, water, and ginger.  Set on high for 5 hours.

Preserved duck egg

Preserved duck egg

Congee after 5 hours, and after bean curd stick, salmon and preserved egg added.

The Recipe:

Congee Broth:
1.5 rice scoop of jasmine rice
9-10 cups of water/chicken broth (1 can of broth = just under 2 cups), or fill the slow cooker 3/4 full
Dried scallop
Ginger, peeled and sliced in thin sticks
Salt, a couple of dashes

Additional fixins:
4-6 hard boiled preserved duck eggs
1 fillet of salmon or white fish, thinly sliced
1 bean curd stick
1 tsp Corn starch
1 Tbsp Soya sauce
Sesame oil

Wash and drain rice.  Combine all ingredients for the broth into a slow cooker.  Set timer to low for 8 hours, or high for 5-6 hours.

At 1 hour remaining, season fish with corn starch, soya sauce, a few drops of sesame oil, and a dash of salt and pepper.  Add bean curd stick to boiling water, until it softens, then remove and slice.  Slice preserved egg into quarters.  Add all to the slow cooker, stirring minimally, just enough to incorporate.  Be careful not to stir the congee too much, or it will get watery....unless you like it that way.

Optional garnishes: green onion, peanuts.

Possible sides: Fried donut stick, steamed gai lan (chinese broccoli), or other chinese veggies.

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