This is a rather simple dish that is viewed as a comfort breakfast meal by Chinese people. As strange as this breakfast will look to most people reading this, congee is is as familiar to even a Chinese immigrant in America as Cream of Wheat is to mainstream Americans. The list of ingredients for this version of the dish is scant. The difficulty of preparation is low if the rice is cooked in a pot and nil if you have a rice cooker.
As a base dish, congee is basically rice that’s cooked in a much higher volume of water than one normally would for dinner rice. It’s basically cream of rice cereal without the cream (though you are certainly entitled to prepare congee with cream and sugar to eat it that way as well). So if you normally use 1.5 cups of water to 1 cup of dry measure rice, you will use 8 cups of water with congee. If you cook this in a pot, use that ratio. If you have a smart rice cooker, it is as simple as choosing the Porridge setting.
The cooker will have measurement lines inside that tell how much water to add for however many cups of rice you have. Set to porridge and then push the start button. I prefer to use Japanese rice for my congee but use whatever rice suits your fancy. There are no rules here.
Now one of the more interesting ingredients to this is the preserved duck egg. Also known as the thousand year old egg, or century egg or even millennium egg.
You can buy them at most large Asian markets. They come in a 6 pack and are normally individually wrapped within. These are duck eggs. The existence of these eggs comes from a desire to preserve the eggs before the advent of refrigeration in China. The method of preservation is simple. The fresh eggs are buried in ash clay and the clay is allowed to harden. They then coat the outside with straw or grass and the eggs age for 90+ days. During that time the whites of the eggs turn dark amber and the yolk turns anywhere from grayish yellow to blackish green. A sort of controlled fermentation takes place. Freshly peeled, the eggs are usually black or dark brown.
It looks like a stunning onyx jewel of the orient. And to those that love these, it IS!
Cut in half, you can see that the whites are actually dark amber as I mentioned above. This particular egg has a black yolk. The flavor is a lot like a strong European cheese. The odor is like a ripe cheese with a hint of ammonia.
I have diced up two eggs here and as you can see, one of them has yellow in the yolk while the other is black. But the color doesn’t seem to affect the flavor much, if at all.
So the dish waits for the porridge to be done cooking before we can continue.
I like to stir fry some Chinese chives but scallions are also popular additions to this cereal.
The rice congee is spooned over the thousand year old egg slices and topped with the stir fried chives. Then the top layer of rice is gently stirred to mix in the chives. The next ingredient is one that really intrigued me when I first learned of it. If you do searches on congee on the web you will see frequent references to “dried pork” but no pictures (at least none that I could ever find). What they are referring to is below. It is shredded pork seasoned with soy sauce and sugar that is completely desiccated. It has the texture of cotton candy but a lot more savory.
The container this pork comes out of is there to the left in the picture above. Again, a product of your local Asian supermarket. They come in different darkness levels which equate to varying flavor strengths. What you see above is about the medium.
And there it is ready to eat. Note that Congee can be used any way you like. You can make it cream of rice cereal with the addition of some milk and sugar if you want. Or eat them like grits. It is a versatile dish with as many ways to eat it as there are people who do the eating. My daughter ate the other half of the congee that I prepared in my rice cooker. She put honey and a tablespoon of cream in hers 😉
So I will provide the rather simple recipe below. Note that because of the high water content, one cup of precooked rice will make a LOT of congee.
Pork Congee with Thousand Year Old Egg (serves 1-2)
- 1 cup uncooked rice.
- 1-2 preserved duck eggs (Century eggs) sliced into wedges.
- 3 Tbs chopped Chinese chives or scallions.
- 1 cup dried shredded pork.
- Fresh ground Chinese white pepper to taste.
- Cook rice with 8 times the same volume of water or follow directions on your rice cooker for the porridge setting.
- Arrange century egg pieces in a bowl.
- Add hot congee to cover the eggs.
- Top with Chinese chives or scallions and stir a little.
- Top with dried pork
- Pepper as needed
Thank you for reading!