Monday, October 26, 2009

Pig Trotter Congee with 1000-Year-Old Eggs

It took me a while to get off my high from the whole pig roast last Saturday to post the follow up on what I did with the two pig trotters and bits and ends I took home with me. So, here I am...finally.

I love Cantonese congee (aka rice porridge either plain or with added ingredients) especially in cold weather or when I'm sick. Cantonese people eat congee when they're sick because it's a lot of liquid and carbs and it's easy to swallow and not oily. It's our version of chicken soup.

It was about 90 degrees last Sunday and I wasn't sick but I HAD to make congee because I've always wanted to make Pig Trotter/Roast Pork Congee with fresh roast pork.

The results were fantastic; the pillowy congee was a perfect mix of fragrant, sweet jasmine rice and smoky roast pork flavors. Boiling the trotters in the congee broke down the cartilage so it was both fun and delicious to pick out, suck and chew on the cartilage which there are plenty of in the trotters.

Read on if you want to make congee at home. Of course, you don't have to use roast pork or pig trotters. You can make plain congee and just enjoy the yumminess of jasmine rice. Or, you can add desired ingredients. Some of my favorites include:
  • Fish Congee - use fish fillets (preferably cod). If you really have time then buy a fresh live tilapia (buy 2 if the fish is around 1.5 lbs) from Ranch 99 Supermarket. Do not buy the ones that are already dead, lying in the fish case. Go home immediately, clean and de-scale fish, steam it in a double boiler for about 10 minutes with a few slices of ginger and green onion stuffed into its stomach to rid the fishy taste, debone carefully and thoroughly (you DO NOT want fish bones or scales in your congee), reserve the fish and add it when congee is done cooking. I prefer using fresh tilapia over cod fillets because the fresh fish really makes a difference and gives a meat "sweetness" to the congee.
  • Chicken Congee - use organic dark meat boneless chicken (cut to bite size pieces) or half of a fresh-killed chicken (chop into pieces but you'll have to deal with small bones). Regardless, marinate with some kosher salt and white pepper. Add into congee when congee is almost done and keep stirring so the congee doesn't burn.
  • Minced Beef Congee - use ground beef and marinate with some kosher salt, white pepper and cornstarch. Form little 1 inch beef balls with your hand. Add into congee when congee is almost done and keep stirring so the congee doesn't burn.
**When congee is done, add kosher salt to taste. Other "condiments" like sliced 1000-Year-Old Eggs, thinly sliced and peeled ginger and chopped green onions can be added to any congee. The eggs should be added to the pot when the congee is done but still boiling so the eggs will break down a little. Ginger and green onions are sprinkled on top of the congee when it's served.

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Sorry, not sure how many quarts this pot is but it's pretty big and I used about 1.5 gallons of water.

I used 2.5 cups of jasmine rice from Thailand (must use jasmine rice - don't use sticky rice!). "Marinate" the rice with a generous amount of salt (about 2 tbsp) and vegetable oil (about 1 tbsp) for a few minutes. Then wash the rice about 3 times to wash away most of the salt and oil. I believe this help the rice "blossom" and cook better into a pillowy porridge consistency.

Add the rice to the pot of water waaaay before the water boils and then absolutely DO NOT touch/stir the pot for the next hour. If you stir the pot, the congee will stick and burn at the bottom of the pot. I never stir until the congee is almost done and I'm ready to add my ingredients.

Thousand Year Old Eggs (aka preserved duck eggs). Don't worry, these eggs have not been preserved for 1000 years. I don't understand the translation. A straight translation should be "leather eggs."

By the way, I really don't like these "sterilized" versions where the eggs come in clean, vacuum-packed plastic packaging. It's too tidy. I miss the eggs from my childhood when they came messily packed in woodash, quick lime and salt and I had to go in the backyard to clean them before my mom could use them. Those tasted sooooo much better and the yolks were always perfect.

Slice your preserved duck eggs in half and then the halves into fours. Add them last to the congee. The heat and stirring will further break up the eggs into tinier pieces so you don't want to cut them too small. Some say these eggs stink but I think they have a wonderful eggy smell and the yolks are a rich and delicious compliment to congee.

I added my trotters and bits and ends when the congee was almost done. Note that I didn't use any pork skin (too fat) but I did leave the skin on on the trotters.

The congee is almost done when all the rice has "blossomed" and the water has turned into a white pillowy porridge consistency. It's not done if you can still make out rice grains.

Pig Trotter Congee with 1000-Year-Old Eggs - Done! Add kosher salt to taste. I prefer kosher or coarse salt in most of my cooking because it's better quality than table salt and when you're cooking with meat, it really helps the flavors of the meat shine.

Congee served with sliced ginger and green onions. My sister and I enjoyed many bowls of this. It's a lot of liquid so it's easy to digest and be hungry for more :)

I'd like to tackle congealed pork blood congee at home one day but I find the quality of pork blood to be substandard in the U.S. It's missing some ingredient but I don't know what it is. What I do know is that the congealed pork blood in Hong Kong, Taiwan and China is almost always soft, silky and smooth like tofu and has a rich, lip-smacking gamey taste. Here, they almost always taste like dried erasers...if I were to eat an eraser.


SinoSoul said...

I just cook mine in a rice cooker... a helluva lot easier...

There's really nothing "Cantonese" about congee. Just like there's nothing "Thai" about this "Rice Soup"

Hungry Kat said...

Well, I mean "Cantonese" as in the consistency, ingredients and cooking time. For example, sweet potato is often used in Taiwanese congee (aka "xi fan") but Cantonese congee wouldn't use sweet potatoes or fish sauce like the Thai Rice Soup you noted. I think there are slight variations of congee amongst all the Asian countries.

Jessica Ng said...

don't forget those salty buffalo milk leaves, whatever they're called!