A Cantonese style, deliciously wholesome, hearty and nutritious congee with pork meat balls and braised peanut, infused with the sweet flavours of dried scallops and shallot oil.
Sometimes, we just need a lot of love … in a bowl of congee. It’s something I always fall back to when I’ve done too much feasting, and last week had been such a sinful week for me. There were more than a few outings to restaurants and cafes, and plenty of days when I’ve had to eat out from dawn to dusk.
I had been indulging in plenty of rich, saucy, even a tad greasy, cooked meals. So it was time to get back to deliciously wholesome, nutritious, comfort food – a void that a bowl of piping hot, thick congee can fill for me! And what’s great about congee is that you can have it any time of day. Being Asians, we enjoy congee for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and yes, heaven forbid if our day should be so long, even supper!5
Congee, or porridge – a term more popularly used in Singapore – is almost a one-dish meal in itself. It’s no longer bland or unappetising, or something that one only eats when feeling under the weather – quite the contrary! These days, congee is skilfully prepared. Rice is stewed in flavourful meat or vegetable broths with specific condiments to impart flavour. The lengthy cooking process cooks and breaks up the rice, literally turning it into a gorgeously fine mush, and in the process, releasing starches, sugars and nutrients to create this silky thick, paste-like soup.
Then, that’s where the fun starts! You add your favourite ingredients to cook in the gently simmering congee, just before serving. Popular choices include fresh fish slices or seafood, pork or chicken meat, organ meats including livers, intestines, as well as cooked salted or century eggs. It’s served and enjoyed piping hot, straight out of the pot. This is popularly how the Cantonese prepare congee.
There are other versions, where the rice grains are cooked but left still whole in the stewing water or broth, like Teochew porridge. Teochew porridge is eaten plain, or with a little sauce, alongside a variety of other cooked side dishes. It’s like having Spanish tapas, the Chinese Teochew way!
Here, I would like to share our family favourite, Cantonese style pork congee with braised peanuts and dried scallops. I first prepare an easy and simple congee base, infused with the flavours of dried scallops and shallot oil. This is already a tasty congee in itself, good to serve if you wish to eat it plain, in place of rice or noodles, with other dishes.
I’m preparing this as a meal in itself, so I then add the seasoned minced pork balls to cook through quickly. Finally, I add the braised peanuts with its sauce, which really brings this congee’s flavour up a couple of notches! Like a raw egg with your congee? Break one into the bowl when serving! Swish it all around in your bowl – it cooks in the congee’s latent heat – and it adds an extra special oomph!
Pork Congee with Braised Peanuts & Dried Scallops
- 150 g uncooked rice grains washed, drained
- 20 g dried scallops (or 1/2 of one dried squid)
- 3 - 3 1/2 litres water (or pork or chicken stock) plus more, as needed
- 2 - 2 1/2 tsp chicken seasoning powder
- 1/2 tsp salt or to taste
- 1/2 tsp white ground pepper or to taste
- 3 tbsp flavoured shallot oil (or lard oil)
- 1 can braised peanuts in sauce (1 can = 6 oz.)
For the Minced Pork Balls:
- 300 g minced pork (a bit of fat preferred)
- 2 tbsp finely minced salted radish
- 2 tbsp finely minced shallots
- 1 garlic clove finely minced
- 1 tbsp preserved cabbage (tung choy) finely minced (optional)
- 2 cm ginger peeled, finely grated
- 1 tbsp light soy sauce
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp corn flour
- Dash of pepper and salt
Condiments for Garnishing:
- Fresh eggs (optional)
- Some ginger sliced thinly into strips
- Some spring onion finely chopped
- Some coriander leaves roughly chopped
- Some fresh red chilli sliced
- Some sesame oil to drizzle, to taste
- Some light soy sauce to drizzle, to taste
- Wash dried scallops and soak in some hot water. When dried scallops have softened, using your fingers (exercise caution if soaking water is still hot), break up the shallots into smaller shreds.
- Mix washed rice grains with shallot oil, chicken seasoning powder, salt and pepper, and set aside for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, place minced pork, salted radish, shallots, garlic, ginger and preserved cabbage (optional). Add light soy sauce, sesame oil, corn flour, pepper and salt. Stir to mix and combine well. Set aside for 15 minutes, before moulding into small balls.
- Pour rice grains into a deep pot, add water, dried scallops with soaking water, and bring to boil over high heat. When water reaches a boil, reduce to low heat and let simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, or until desired texture (how broken up you prefer your congee to be) and consistency (how thick or thin you prefer your congee) is reached. Stir regularly to avoid rice sticking to the bottom of the pot. If the congee gets too thick, stir in more water as required.
- When congee is of the desired texture and consistency, add minced pork balls and cook for a further 3 minutes. Add braised peanuts with sauces, and stir lightly to mix in. Do a taste test, and add more salt or pepper as desired. Turn off heat.
- Dish out into individual serving bowls and sprinkle chopped spring onion, sliced ginger and chilli shreds over the top. Drizzle over with more sesame oil and light soy sauce, to taste. If desired, break a fresh egg into the congee, and serve.