Pork and Shiitake Mushroom Congee
By Heidi Allison
Congee is Asian comfort food. A thick, silky rice soup with the constituency of porridge, congee (aka jook, jok, juk, bubur, bobar, zhou, xifan etc.) is standard breakfast fare in Cantonese and Shanghai households, the “go-to” healing meal when you’re sick, and the centerpiece of Dim Sum brunches, weddings and sixtieth birthday celebrations. Easy to digest and versatile, basic congee can be served sweet or savory. In Canton, cooks add sugar or rock candy to enhance its taste, while Shanghai chefs add hot pickled cabbage. Pork, chicken, beef, fish, preserved egg, mushrooms, abalone, pumpkin, pine nuts, bok choy, lettuce and a variety of condiments and toppings are also added to enhance and flavor this delicate dish.
Basic congee is white rice that is boiled, then gently simmered, with a lot of water or broth for a long period of time, to break it down into a delicate thick soup. You use what seems like a tiny amount of rice to lot of liquid—ratio is often 1:5 or 1:8. Different types of rice are used in different cultures— long grain (Jasmine ) rice, short grain rice, medium grain rice and glutinous (or sweet/sticky ) rice all show up in this mult-culti dish.
In this recipe, two types of rice are used to create the requisite silky, thick texture that Cantonese people crave. Medium grain rice forms the foundation, while the glutinous rice adds a silky texture. A combination of water and chicken bone broth create the cooking liquid which enhances its subtle flavor. Rather than cooking this dish on the stove (which can easily burn unless stirred often), I used a crock pot and got great results.
When serving congee, its all about the toppings, Condiments can be added right before serving, or added at the table to cater to individual tastes. Slivered green onion tops, matchstick fresh peeled ginger slices, hot toasted sesame seed oil, soy sauce or fish sauce all make great condiments to enhance this glorious dish’s delicate flavor.
1/2 cup medium grain rice (sushi rice)
1/4 cup glutinous rice
4 1/2 cups water
4 cups good-quality chicken stock, (I recommend Butchers Bone Broth Organic Chicken)
1 1/2-2 tsp. kosher flake salt
Place rice in a large mesh strainer over a large bowl and rinse several times until water runs clear. Add rice, water and chicken stock to a 6-quart slow cooker or crock pot and place on high setting for 5 hours, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until soup thickens to consistency of a thick porridge. At this point the congee can be refrigerated and eaten later, or served immediately with pork, shiitake and bok choy added.
While congee is cooking, place 1/2 slab of baby back pork ribs into a 2-quart pot and cover with water by several inches. Bring to a boil on medium heat, then reduce heat to low and simmer until meat is cooked and tender —about 1 hour. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Cut meat off bones and set aside.
Baby Bok Choy and Shiitake mushroom mix
3 baby bok choy, washed
4 oz. fresh shiitake mushrooms
Cut bok choy stems and leaves into 1/4-inch slices and set aside.
Remove shiitake stems from caps and discard. Slice caps into 1/4-inch slices and set aside.
Add sesame seed or peanut oil to a wok or skillet, and heat on medium heat till hot. Add bok choy stalks and mushrooms and stir until starting to soften—about 1 minute. Add bok choy leaves and stir until just starting to wilt. Remove and set aside.
Fresh ginger, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 bunch green onions, green tops only; sliced into thin strips
Hot chili sesame seed oil
Black sesame seeds
Pork and Shiitake Congee:
A few minutes before serving, add salt, boiled pork, sautéed bok choy and mushrooms to basic congee and stir till heated. Ladle congee into warmed bowls and top or serve with garnishes.