Friday, September 26, 2008
Congee is something I used to see as bland and boring, but now see as a kind of miracle food - simple and comforting but infinitely variable and nourishing. It can be as simple as rice and water or it can showcase luxury ingredients. I've wanted to post about congee for a long, long time but my attempts to make it never turned out right - no matter how long I cooked the rice, it just got soggy instead of breaking down and getting creamy. I wasted a lot of good chicken stock one time, and got discouraged.
After a little research (and a lot of leftover rice after a dinner) I tried again by boiling about half and half cooked rice and water, then bringing to a simmer and adding water til it was a little thicker than congee. This worked great and made a congee base which I am keeping in the fridge, and using for a few different experiments.
The easiest kind of congee to make is just by heating the base, then chopping a few things and throwing them in and simmering long enough for the additions to cook or the flavours to blend. It's a pain if you have to cook things before adding.
The pepper beef is like deli roast beef, but a little spicy and the bean sprouts are not the baby ones that you buy in the west, but overgrown enough to have lots of little green leaves. You can use any cured meat and delicate green that is available - watercress or even lettuce would be fine.
For two small bowls: Heat 2 cups congee base and prepare 1 cup chopped greens, 2 tbs diced pepper beef. Stir in the pepper beef right away and simmer for a few minutes, then add the greens. Simmer for about ten minutes and taste for salt.