Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Congee with Century Egg (皮蛋瘦肉粥)

It seemed that every Sunday, without fail, my dad would make congee and we would eat that over a bowl of dumplings or noodles for brunch. The flavors varied; sometimes we would have leftover turkey for turkey congee (an unconventional creation of my dad's), fish congee (魚片粥), and my favorite congee with century egg (皮蛋瘦肉粥). That is probably the most common type of congee and easiest to make (right next to plain congee). I've always had fond memories of this food; it was like chicken noodle soup, good for the heart, good for the soul. The Chinese believe that a bowl of congee will help you cleanse your diet and rid minor illnesses.

This somehow fits into the category of strange Chinese dishes; many people who are unaccustomed to century egg find the sight of it repulsive. Understandable of course, century egg by itself gives off a pungent odor of sulfur and ammonia. When broken up and added into a plain-tasting pot of congee, however, it becomes soft and its flavor mellower. But since I grew up with the acquired taste for century egg, I find it hard to believe that people would find the food so repulsive. Either way, I think it's great and I'm glad I can eat it again. (I've been craving it for a while) Century egg acquired from home, as usual.

Plain Congee (粥)
yields: 1 pot
  • 1 cup rice
  • 9 cups water, might have to add more
  • salt and white pepper to taste (optional)
Bring rice and water to a boil. As soon as it boils, turn down the heat to a med-low heat and simmer for 40-50 minutes, stirring every 5-10 minutes. Caution: It is very important to stir the bottom to make sure the congee does not burn! It will also burn if there is not enough water so check the consistency of the congee often to make sure it doesn't become too thick!
The congee is done when it becomes mien or soft. (You can't taste the individual grains of rice)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Spicy, sour, a hint of sweetness-- Kimchi!

I've pickled cucumbers, I've pickled carrots, now I'm pickling napa cabbage. I don't know why I suddenly felt the urge to *attempt* to make kimchi-- maybe because my aunt made it last month and my suitemate had a tub of it in the fridge-- that I suddenly felt like I wanted to make it. I pickled the cabbage overnight in a salt brine. I used about 4 cups of water to 1.5 pounds of napa cabbage, then set a plate over it. The pickled cabbage will smell terrible if you don't refrigerate, just so you know.

So I added my own variety of ingredients such as sliced ginger root, scallions, garlic, julienne carrots and cucumbers. Don't forget the chili paste and chili powder to give it that signature red hue!

  • 1 head (~1.5 lb) napa cabbage
  • 4-5 cups of water
  • 2 tablespoons coarse salt
Wash (and wash it well! because napa cabbage tends to be dirty!) and cut up into square pieces. Mix salt, water and soak cabbage in brine. Don't worry if the water doesn't completely cover, because the cabbage will soften up as it pickles. For this reason, remember to set a big plate over the cabbage to weigh it down.

  • shredded ginger
  • julienne carrots
  • julienne cucumbers
  • minced garlic
  • korean chili paste
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar (more or less to taste)
  • reserved salt-brine
prepare all the ingredients, and mix them all together. Use the reserved salt-brine to sort of soak up the kimchi half way or until the desired dilution. Yep. Kimchi, yay.