Thursday, October 9, 2008

Congee, Fely's Way

P1260196
Pork and dried oysters congee.

Congee is nearly oiless, packs lots of water and cleanses the digestive system. Most Chinese, especially the older folks, eat congee for breakfast everyday of their lives. Just like cereals and milk to some.

I had a neighbor, Fely, who cooked a different congee from mine. Her chicken congee was so good you could smell it even when the wind wasn't blowing. This congee recipe is based on Fely's Filipino way of cooking congee, using onions, garlic and ginger, The Asian Trinity (you read it here first). Fely always uses kampung (village) chicken chopped into pieces. I like to use kampung chicken too but with bones on. The resulting congee is very xien (savory sweet).

I think congee is eaten in every Asian country. Even among Chinese there are different congee, such as plain congee which is mostly for invalids and highly effective for someone with the runs. Then there's congee where meat and other ingredients are added. I like both types, plain and otherwise.

Chinese congee is just plain rice boiled with lots of water until the rice disintegrates into a thick watery gruel. Some people add fresh bean curd skin for better flavor, but mostly congee is just plain water and rice. Something so plain will require the best rice of course, and lots of patience so that the congee does not burn. This means it must be simmered instead of boiled. A rule my father often said when cooking congee is that you must start with enough water. Never add water during cooking. I have stuck to his rule with very good results. I don't know if it's just my imagination but rice cooked with water added during cooking does not 'open' up as much and is not so smooth.

This morning I cooked congee for breakfast (I am making an effort to wake up early the past 2 days so that Ming will follow my new habit. But my good example comes too late because he is still sleeping now). I've cooked the congee thicker than usual because Wey likes it that way. Another reason is because congee is mostly water, you'd get hungry soon after eating very thin congee and you'll need to take more leaks than usual. Don't eat congee when you are traveling on the highway in China. Surely you have heard of their toilets?

Congee, Fely's Way

1 1/2 cups fragrant rice*
5 liters water for thick congee (increase by 1 liter if you like congee thin)
2 slices ginger (5cm X 4 mm each)
1 to 2 heaped T doong choi (preserved veg)--optional but highly recommended for extra flavor
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 brown onion, minced
any meat or fish, sliced thinly & seasoned with salt & pepper
1 T veg oil
salt and pepper to taste
spring onions for garnish
sesame oil (optional)

*Rice must be of good quality. Cup here is the metric cup which is = to 1 1/4 rice cup.

1. Wash the rice. Put about 1 T oil in a heavy-base pot and fry the onions, garlic and ginger until fragrant. If using kampung chicken (true home-reared kampung chickens are older, tougher but boy, so tasty) with bones on, add it now and fry for a minute. Add all the water and the rice. When water boils, lower the heat until the water just simmers. This may take an hour or more. Stir once in a while so that the rice doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot. If the congee is too thin for your liking, turn heat up and take off the lid. Make sure you keep stirring to prevent burning.

2. Turn heat off. Add the doong choi. Let the congee sit for at least about 1/2 hour. It will swell further and thicken.

3. Re-heat the congee. If it's too thick, which is very likely, you have to add some water. If made perfectly, no extra water should be needed. Add the meat, stirring well. Season to taste. Top with sesame oil and spring onions. You can serve some crullers on the side.

12 comments:

Precious Pea said...

Ahh...comfort food. I always turn to porridge whenever I am overdosed with rich food. But funny cos I do know a lot of people (and they are Chinese) who doesn't like porridge at all.

Denise ^ ChiCkyEGG said...

wah, 'hou wat, hou jyeng' woor!!!

TeaLady said...

Terri. Yes I do let the chicken cool a little and then remove the meat from the bones. Not shreds, but small pieces. The flour from the dumplings usually thickens the broth quite nicely, but if it doesn't you can add a little slurry of flour and water. I guess you could make dumpling balls, but they would take much longer to cook. BTW that meal at 6th Auntie's looks inviting.

Johnathan said...

Hi Terri

I guess there are many ways to cook porridge i.e. same ingredients but different way of cooking it, which amazingly yields different results and perhaps one that you may find ... ermm should l say, revolutionary?

Even with Fely's type of porridge, if you apply different methods of cooking, it will yield different results as well. See one example below.

Having said that, it will be interesting to have a Goldie Lock Porridge Campaign. What is that? Well basically to run a campaign to try different ways of cooking porridge from the same given ingredients :)

A few aspects to consider may include the following:

1-Starting ratio of water to rice
2-Addition of water (Or NOT) in the cooking process
3-The intensity of the heat throughout
4-Treatment of the ingredient (Chicken+Asian Trinity)prior to addition to the porridge

The possibility is endless if you try with various alternatives built in e.g. the type of chicken, the age of the chicken, the sex of the chicken, the diet of the chicken, the species of the chicken... phew... it will probably takes a lifetime to attain a true master status in porridge!

Using Fely's same ingredients, one of the way that I would cook the porridge is as follow:

1-Boil the water. Add salt + pepper when it is boiling.

2-Marinade the chicken with salt. Add the whole chicken into the boiling water and cook for say... 15minutes. This produces "Bak jham kai" and stock. I probably will cheat with some shao shin wine in between :p.

3-Place the cooked chicken into cold water and leave it for 5 minutes. Then use a fork and scrap the meat of the chicken.

4-Fry the asian trinity in a wok until fragrant (You might want to retain some of the frangrant bits before the next step). Add in the rice and stir fry again for awhile as though you are making chicken rice...ermm... the aroma.

5-Add the fried rice into the stock and return the shredded chicken meat together with the bones as well.

6-Cooked over slow heat for ... well, until the rice is of the consistency that you like. I personally prefers the rice to still retains some of its form.

7-Well, some like to eat it right from the pot, some left it to stand... its your choice I guess? Serve the porridge with the spring onion, some white pepper and I would suggests, the fragrant bits of the asian trinity.

There you go! One of the other way to cook porridge.

Cheers!

Lily Anette said...

Love that bowl! and of course the congee too. Always warming.

J2Kfm said...

eh, so ngam I also had congee yday. comforting food for the stomach eh?

Precious Pea said...

Hey Terri, Ming leaving today? Hope you are coping well.

Lianne said...

oh terri, how i wish that my porridge turns out as white looking as yours. yours looked like those served in high end chinese restaurant :-)

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

pp: me too, when i come home after travelling, i always cook congee.

denise: geng hei ma!

tealady: i always thought the dumplings shd be round but it appears tt ur way of making them into strips are more authentic.is there a chinese influence in this recipe i wonder? sounds like a noodle dish.

johanthan: tt sound like a lot of work for congee but at the same time, it sounds delicious. is tt the way u cook congee?

lilyann: the bowl's frm tokyo. yes, i rmber u love bowls, so do i.

j2fk: yes, n it is light on calories..

pp: thanx, i was miserable but getting better. there's a hole in my heart...

lianne: start with white rice!

Johnathan said...

Hi Terri, well, that's more or less the way that I would cook my porridge. Sometimes I would soak the rice first say 15-20mins, then mashed them with my hand to break them into bits and pieces. This is a faster way. I heard Hongkies soak the rice overnight. Either way, there's 101 ways to cook porridge or perhaps... anything and everything ;)

Teresa said...

May I borrow your image of congee? I will ofcourse provide a linkback and cite where I got the photo from. Thank you in advance.

www.hsinrusocial.com

terri@adailyobsession said...

teresa: sure. as long as u link my blog:)

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