What’s the Best Chinese Comfort Food?  Hot Homemade Congee!

What’s the Best Chinese Comfort Food? Hot Homemade Congee!

What’s the Best Chinese Comfort Food? Hot Homemade Congee!

Growing up, I’ve had many variations of this watery Chinese porridge called “Congee” (aka, the 粥 in Chinese).  

And all of them, are memories of home and comfort.

I don’t know what it is about this dish, but the simplest of ingredients, the white rice (there are also variations of the rice used) can produce such a profound feeling when it’s mixed and cooked in the right proportions of water and toppings.

Follow this post to learn how to make this!

What makes Congee, Congee?

By definition, congee is watered rice, or gruel, or porridge.  The word originated from the root word “to nourish” (according to wiktionary).  Across many cuisines and cultures, you’ll see the variations of congee from generation to generation and country to country.  From as far as India to Japan to the South Asian Countries, they all have some variation of this dish.

So what makes congee, congee?  The most basic premise is that it’s some sort of grain (usually rice) that is cooked to a semi viscous state.  The viscosity (how fast or slow it flows as a liquid) depends on the type of congee.  

The Chinese version of congee exists in almost the same proportions as culture Regions available.  From Guangdong Province,  you’ll find the more liquid versions of the congee base and then quick boiled with preserved eggs or minced beef.  This is very typical of the congee you’ll find in Hong Kong.  And don’t forget, served with fried dough sticks!
The congee base is usually the same with variations on toppings and flavouring.  What I do is make this congee base for the kids, Cantonese-styled, and our toppings spread on the kitchen table is AMAZING!  We all like different toppings, so we’ll crack out preserved pork floss, vinegared cucumbers, spicy preserved radish, or pan fried salty peanuts!  Get creative!
In Thailand, it’s Jok (โจ๊ก, pronounced joke).  Pictured here is a fragrant Thai fish congee.  The congee base is made with rice and water, with a selection of toppings such as peanuts, fresh spring onions and parsley, and preserved salty duck eggs.  The Thai will also add spicy peppers and chilies, which I didn’t opt for.  Too exciting for me in the mornings!
In Taiwan, it’s also called Jook (粥) and the congee base is similar to that of the white congee in Hong Kong, but the toppings are out of this world!  Here I’ve got pork floss (there are so many beautiful variations of this), preserved and flavoured seaweed, preserved salty duck eggs, root vegetables such as lotus root and even yams, and all sorts of preserved vegetables such as cucumbers, and fresh cilantro, baby celery (a Taiwanese favourite), and spring green onions.
And in Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, Mongolia, they all have their own variations of congee.  I love trying all of them as I travel and it’s truly amazing how one dish has evolved in so many ways through the cultures!

Making Congee

There are 2 basic ways to make congee.
  1. You make the congee base (with simply rice and water) and then spice it up
  2. You spice it up first and mix in the rice to create this blended, beautiful congee concoction

In the recipes below, you’ll find both variations.  Try them both and see how you like them.  It really depends on what you feel like eating.  If you’re having side dishes, like meats and vegetables, the congee is usually served plain (rice and water).  If you’re eating the congee like a meal, it usually has all the works inside.  

There’s no right or wrong to making or eating congee!  And the type of rice you use, can also vary.  I’ve used long grain rice before, round little rice, brown rice, purple rice, even Japanese rice.  They all work!

 

What’s involved?

Prep time: 5 mins

Cook time: 25 mins

Total time: 30 mins

Serves: 8 bowls

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of rice
  • 2 L of water
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • Whatever toppings you want

To Stir or Not To Stir?

Ah, the age old question of whether you stir your congee or not.

From my experience, it depends on the type of congee you’re making.

For example, I also make the Chiu Chou style of congee where it’s got a thick base layer of congee and beautiful rice soup on top.  In this congee, you don’t stir AT ALL.  It’s basically, a quick boil for 20 minutes, turn off the heat, let it rest for 30 minutes to “bake”  and settle and serve.  My mom is Chiu Chou, so I’ll hear her repeat this technique to me many times over!

For the Cantonese-styled congee, I will mix.  I will stir fry the ingredients first, add in the rice and water and mix it around, ensuring that the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom.  Have your heat on medium to medium-high for that control.  I find when you max out the heat, it becomes harder to manage and this sticky congee to the bottom of the pot happens.

If you’re also using a thermal pot, insta-pot, or a pressure cooker, stirring is also suggested.   

 

CHECK OUT SOME OF OUR CONGEE RECIPES

POST YOUR FAVOURITE RECIPES BELOW IN THE COMMENTS!  WE WOULD LOVE TO HEAR THEM!

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Homemade Do-it-yourself Wontons in a “Cheat” Chicken Broth

Did you know that wontons literally means “cloud swallow” in Cantonese?  These little delights are like clouds and bite-sized enough to be swallowed in one gulp!

For more videos, visit us on YouTube.

Check out the video on how to create awesome wontons at home!  

What I’ve done here is used a “cheat”  chicken broth where I’m using a chicken stock as a base, but flavoring it a bit more with some additional ingredients.  A great use of veggie scraps sometimes in these cases.

And one of a Chinese Soup Chef’s best friend, the soup bag is used here.  I highly recommend getting a few at home.  Be sure to wash and boil first before usage.  Since they are made of cotton, you can throw them in the wash as well or wash by hand.  They keep EVERYTHING in, including onion skins, seeds, flower petals, fish bones, the works.  Instead of straining, just use one of these which you can just drop into your soup and voila!  easy to remove ingredients.

What’s involved?

Prep time: 45 mins

Cook time (broth): 30 mins

Cook time (wontons): 10 mins

Total time: 1 hour 30 mins

Makes: 50 wontons

Equipment needed:

Ingredients (for cheat chicken broth):

  • 500 mL of chicken broth

  • 1 L of cold water
  • 1-2 pieces of star anise
  • 5 dried scallops
  • 5 dried longans
  • 1 whole garlic
  • 1 whole fresh onion
  • 3 shallots
  • 1 leek

Ingredients (for wontons):

  • 500g of ground chicken

  • 6-7 fresh shrimp, deveined and diced

  • 20 bunches of fresh chives, diced

  • 3 bunches of fresh green onions, diced

  • 1 tablespoon diced garlic

  • 1 teaspoon of fish sauce

  • 1 tablespoon of oyster sauce

  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce

  • 1 teaspoon of white pepper

  • 1 teaspoon of cooking wine

  • sesame oil to taste

  • 50 wonton skins

Cooking Instructions

  1. Begin to boil your chicken broth in your soup pot
  2. Chop up the soup “cheat”  ingredients and put them all into the soup bag
  3. Add directly to your chicken broth and boil on medium heat for 30 minutes
  4. For the wontons, mix in ground chicken, diced shrimp and all the seasoning together
  5. Chop up the chives and fresh green onions and add them in
  6. Mix well together until the meat creates strands (it should be pretty sticky)
  7. Put a small amount of meat into the middle of your wonton and using your finger, wet all around the edges and fold as you’d like (there are so many techniques out there, I just like to squish it at the top to form a little package)
  8. Wrap them all as to ensure the wonton skins don’t dry out
  9. Remove the soup bag from your soup, ensuring there’s nothing remaining in the soup
  10. Add in 10-15 wontons.  This should bring the soup down from a boil.  
  11. Once the soup begins to boil, add in 200mL of water to reduce the temperature.  This will keep the wontons whole and not boiled and destroyed in the voracity of the boil.  Do this 2 additional times meaning, when it boils again, add 100mL of water.  I know this will dilute the soup somewhat, so you can also do this in a separate pot of water or add more chicken broth.
  12. Once it begins to boil the 3rd time around.  Strain out, scoop some soup, garnish and serve!

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A Chinese Delicacy: How to Prepare Dried Fish Maw (or Fish Bladder)

A Chinese Delicacy: How to Prepare Dried Fish Maw (or Fish Bladder)

A Chinese Delicacy: How to Prepare Dried Fish Maw (or Fish Bladder)

Have you ever walked by those Chinese herbal or dried food shops and wondered what those fairly large beige bubble things were?  I certainly did growing up and just always found it foreign until I was introduced to it in foods, soups, and stews and told how expensive they were (my parents’ Chinese way of telling me to eat it). 

Fish maw is the fish bladder (air bubble) of the fish.  Not the fish stomach, which is a common misnomer.  

I finally had enough curiosity to try to make them myself and got an hour crash course from the vendor in Hong Kong who basically walked me step by step (after I bought a bunch from them), having the vegetable vendor verify (after buying ingredients for the soup), and all the nearby old ladies share their various fish maw recipes.  What a way to immerse myself into Chinese cooking!

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There are many sizes, makes, cuts, and types of fish maw available!  So explore them all!  

Preparing Fish Maw (or Fish Bladder)

Preparing fish maw for use in soups, stews, or Chinese dishes can take up to 3 days depending on the size and thickness of the fish maw.  In the video, I’m using thicker fish maw, so it took 2 full days.  In some soups, the fish maw are much smaller, so you can just boil as you would like any meats.

Day -2:  Blanch your fish maw in boiling water for 15 minutes.  I used a ceramic pot so I could just change the water in the pot rather than switch it around.  The Chinese are very particular about their ceramic pots versus metal based pots because of the potential metallic flavours absorbed by the food.  Once you have boiled it you can let it sit overnight.

Day -1:  Change out the water and replace the fish maw pot with room temperature water in the morning.  Then put in the fridge until evening (12 hours) and replace the water again for overnight (12 hours).   

Day 0:  Pour out the water and rinse the fish maw.  It should still be pretty rubbery and thick.  Cut into desired pieces for your dish.  You can even save them in portions in the freezer for up to 6 months. Enjoy!

 

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Turkey Chinese Congee (Porridge)

Turkey Chinese Congee (Porridge)

Turkey Chinese Congee (Porridge)

Soup Name: Turkey Chinese Congee

Traditional Chinese Name: 火雞粥 (huǒ jī zhōu)

Introduction: What to do with a 19 pound turkey for a family of 6? Well, after carving it, you have more meat leftover than carcass and I’ve taken half of the carcass for congee and the other half for soup. Don’t forget to keep the skin as it’s roasted and delicious. The base is just turkey and congee rice, but I also decided to add roasted peanuts as part of the base. You can also add dried scallops, dried tofu skin, dried octopus as well. The garnishes are also very vast…. today I went with both century preserved duck eggs and preserved salted duck eggs, as well as preserved vegetables and green onions as there was no salt added to the congee.

What Ingredients are required?

1 half of a turkey carcass (bones)2 cups of turkey meat
2 cups of round congee rice
3/4 of a large pot of water
fresh peeled peanuts
salt to taste

How do I prepare it?

  1. Boil your water first
  2. In a shallow pan, add a teaspoon of oil and pan fry the peanuts on medium heat until they are a golden brown (this makes the congee more fragrant)
  3. When you water boils, add in the congee rice and boil on high heat for 10 minutes, stirring the bottom ensuring it doesn’t stick
  4. Add in the leftover turkey and peanuts and boil on high for another 5 minutes before reducing heat to low and cover (you can use a chopstick to prop it open so it doesn’t boil over) for one hour, stirring occasionally to ensure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot
  5. Serve, top with your favorite toppings and enjoy!

Any benefits?

  • This soup is naturally flavored (slightly salty from the turkey meat and bones)
  • Really,  no additives needed (salt or sugar)
  • Great as a meal, for kids and the whole family
  • This is a great congee base for adding other ingredients
  • You can save this in the freezer for up to one month or in the fridge for consumption for up to 3 three (but reboil it before eating)

Any precautions?

  • Be cautious of tiny bones if serving to children (although it’s unlikely if you have kept the turkey carcass together)
  • There are peanuts in this congee, so take care if you or someone is allergic to nuts

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GIVE YOUR LOVE OF SOUP.

FOLLOW US AND SHARE.

ON YOUTUBE

ON INSTAGRAM

ON FACEBOOK

A Do-It-Yourself Japanese Shabu Shabu Experience

A Do-It-Yourself Japanese Shabu Shabu Experience

A Do-It-Yourself Japanese Shabu Shabu Experience

Check out this 2 part homemade broth and Japanese-styled shabu shabu experience!

Serves: Party of 4-6

Prep Time:  30 mins

Cook Time:  3 hours and 15 mins

Eat Time:  Endless

For more videos, visit us on YouTube.

Check out the video on how to create an awesome and delicious Japanese-styled shabu shabu in the comfort of your home with a chicken broth base from scratch.

Shabu shabu literally means “swish swish” in English and it is a pre-loaded hotpot with all your favourite ingredients such as white radish, carrots, leeks, a variety of leafy greens, a mix of Japanese mushrooms, firm (or soft tofu), and a selection of cute Japanese fish cakes.  Perfect for the whole family and ideal for colder weather!

Serve with your choice of meats, seafood, more greens, fish balls, noodles or rice and you’ve got yourself a family favourite!

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Chinese Winter Melon and Parma Ham Stew

Chinese Winter Melon and Parma Ham Stew

Chinese Winter Melon and Parma Ham Stew

Soup Name

Chinese Winter melon and Ham Stew

Traditional Chinese Name:  

 

For more videos, visit us on YouTube.

I was inspired to make this soup one day when I walked by the wet mart and saw the vendor carving up this giant fresh winter melon and I thought, “Gosh, that’s be amazing to use!”.  I didn’t want to make a soup that day, but really wanted something savory, tasty, and soft.  So another way to make winter melon is to stew it!  And normally, you can pair winter melon with Chinese ham, but I went for a western spin and decided to make a fusion version with Parma Ham instead (which is equally salty).

What’s involved?

Prep time: 15 mins

Cook time: 45 mins

Total time: 1 hour

Serves: 4-5 people

Ingredients

  • 1 slice of fresh winter melon (about 2-3 inches thick is good)
  • 1 bowl of smaller dried Chinese mushrooms
  • 1 bowl of fresh, cored gingko bilobas
  • 1 pack of Parma Ham
  • 9-10 cloves of fresh garlic
  • A sprinkling of preserved Chinese vegetables

Cooking Instructions

  1. Start by soaking the Chinese mushrooms in room temperature water for about an hour to soften them
  2. I like to use giant butcher’s knives for chopping most things because the weight and leverage just lessens the work!  Chop your winter melon into large-sized pieces, removing the seeds and keeping the skin.  This will help keep in place as it softens in your stew and not disintegrate into a million pieces and become blah…
  3. The go about removing the ends of the mushrooms.  A sharp knife or kitchen scissors will do the job!
  4. In your soup pot, with a bit of oil and on medium heat, pan fry the garlic cloves until they are brown (and smell yummy!), then you toss in the mushroom and pan fry for about 3 minutes.
  5. Drop in the gingko bilobas and also fry for 3 minutes
  6. Then you extract the Parma Ham and just place it on top of the other ingredients and stir slightly
  7. Add in 2 cups of boiling water and a sprinkling of Chinese preserved vegetables and mix it altogether
  8. Cover and boil for 45 minutes, stirring every once in a while so it doesn’t stick, or that you still have enough liquid in the pot

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