Congee sounds exotic but it is, at its most basic, as simple as it gets. With a history dating back to cash-strapped Chinese workers, congee was a way of adding a small amount of rice to a large amount of water in an effort to bulk it up and make something nutritious out of nothing. Bones were considered luxuries and were later added to the mix, along with things like lemongrass or star anise (also considered luxuries). To keep with the theme, I’ve used a hock in the cooking process, as I believe it to be the cheapest, most underrated cut on the entire carcass. If you’ve got a friendly butcher, ask him/her if he/she has any smoked ones lying around. That’s next level flavour, right there. The key to congee is the water:rice ratio, as well as a constant stirring - you want to release the starch to create a silky texture.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED:
- 1 x smoked hock, cut into discs
- 1 cup rice
- 10 cups water (or, even better, chicken stock)
- Your choice of aromatics (peppercorns, fennel seeds, ginger, bay leaves, whole cloves etc.)
- Your choice of garnishes. (Finely sliced spring onion, chilli, pickled vegetables, coriander, soy sauce, fish sauce, wilted greens etc. are all good but consider a raw egg yolk too - it will add even more richness to the dish.)
WHAT TO DO:
1. Rinse the rice in a large colander until the water runs clear.
2. On the stovetop, combine the rice and water (or stock, if using) in a deep saucepan
3. Add the aromatics, along with the sliced hock. Bring to the boil.
4. Reduce to a simmer and partially cover.
5. Allow to simmer for 90 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes to prevent rice from sticking. (Towards the end of the process, you might want to check more regularly.)
6. When consistency is smooth and velvety, remove hock. If the meat can be easily shredded, go for it. If not, it’s not essential to the dish - the smoked meat would have injected a lot of flavour already.
To Serve, ladle the congee into deep bowls and top with your preferred garnish.
For more recipes, get the 'Meat Manifesto' by Andy Fenner. Available at all of our stores, in book stores and online.