As i was preparing the photo for this post, I pondered for a while, Porridge or Congee? I grew up knowing this as Porridge while Congee came into the picture when Dim Sum restaurants (those that came with bilingual menus) proliferated. Ever since then (thanks to the photos in the menus), the equation Congee = Porridge was cast in me head. For curiosity sake, i googled to see if I had been right or wrong all this while.
I quote Merriam Webster Dictionary
Porridge - A soft food made by boiling meal of grains or legumes in milk or water until thick
Congee - Porridge made from rice
So by definition (according to Merriam Webster), Congee is a subset of Porridge? Should I change the equation??
Congee/Rice Porridge is quite commonly eaten among the Chinese since rice is our staple food. Some say it is poor man's food. Congee is rice cooked with lots of water, hence can stretch one's rice supply befitting the poor man's food label. However, congee was served in the imperial palace too. With costly ingredients like abalone thrown in, the humble dish can be fit for the king!
I remember congee being served during lunch, eaten with side dishes (just like rice) at grandma's. Grandma did go through difficult times but over the years it became more habitual or cultural instead. Congee is lighter and easier on the stomach.
I believe congee is most likely the first solid food that is introduced to a chinese child. Ironically, this will most likely be our main diet when we grow old too, what goes around, comes around...
I grew up loving the congee, for me it's comfort food . It's soft texture, warm, easy on the stomach but sweeten by the stock from the ingredients is like food for the soul. Unfortunately little one doesn't think so :( He hates it because it's all soft and soggy plus it makes him sweat! Give me a bowl of congee and it will make me happy. I love it either way, cooked with lots of ingredients as a all in one meal or plain but eaten with side dishes.
Personally, I think it's a very forgiving dish, one cannot go wrong with this (with the exception of burning it, which I remember I did when I was young!).
There are too many variations to the congee :) Put in chicken it becomes chicken porridge, put in fish and it's fish porridge blah blah blah... The one shown in the photo is Seafood Congee. Inspiration came from the Hong Kong version of Junk Boat Congee which has lots of seafood thrown in. Someone once told me while enjoying this in HK, this dish was staple for the boat people in the HK during the early days. It was simple , convenient to cook on their boat, all in one but nutritious dish which they made with their daily catch now served as an authentic HK dish. As the name suggests, these are the other ingredients added in my version:-
- Prawns (Clean and shelled with with shell on tail intact)
- Squid (Score and cut into slices)
- Fish Fillet (Marinade with dash of salt and pepper)
- Clams (Shelled)
- Pork (Slices of lean meat)
- Marinade seafood with salt, pepper and ginger juice.
- Cook rice with water or chicken stock. The ratio is 1 cup rice to 9 cups water.
- Bring to a boil and then lower fire for it to simmer until rice is soft and reach the preferred consistency (some like it thick while some like it thin!)
- Put in pork slices.
- Lastly put in seafood and a few slices of ginger and cook until seafood is of right texture.
- Season with salt, pepper, sesame oil and light soya sauce. Garnish with some chopped spring onions.