Congee/Jook is not necessarily a Cantonese dish, but the preparation of this comforting rice porridge has some distinct characteristics in Cantonese cuisine. Typically, the congee base is made with a slow and long simmering approach; mixing new and old rice grains together (varying ratio), like a traditional sushi rice preparation. Newer rice tend to have a higher water content, resulting in a wetter, glue-like consistency, while the older rice grains with less water content (results from protein bonding due to oxidation, which causes the skin of the grain to have a little barrier that limits water penetration) has a much firmer texture. The mixture of the two rice brings an interesting balance in the congee base with a smooth but thick texture. Cantonese congee emphasizes the breakdown of rice grains; there is more starch in the liquid, making for a creamier congee. Additionally Cantonese congees utilizes stock/broth (Fish/Chicken seems to be the norm) as a base rather than just water. Yuba skin and dried conpoy can be added as well to round up the flavor of the congee. However, I honestly cannot confirm or deny if any of the congee shops in the bay area do this approach with the rice.
The usual method of cooking Cantonese congee after preparing the base is usually done “sahng gwun (生滾)” style, where the raw, fresh ingredients are placed into the boiling jook base until the flavors are infused into the dish (cooked items like poached chicken can placed as well). There are many shops that have congee but having that right mixture of rice grains, seasoning, and flavor is difficult to find.
Typical congees you can find
- Century egg with lean pork congee: An odd looking ingredient, the century egg is produced by preserving a duck egg (though chicken or quail eggs can be used) with an alkaline mixture for an extended time. This creates a translucent dark brown egg white with a creamy dark green/greyish yolk; the century egg tends to have a strong flavor. Combined with marinated lean pork, this is one of the classical common congees found.
- Sampan Congee: This congee was originally cooked on small, wooden boats called sampans. Related to the sea, this congee is often served with fish, jellyfish, shrimp, scallops, squid, fried peanuts, green onions, chicharrones, and/or coriander.
- Sliced fish with ginger congee: In the bay area, the fish tend to be more like fish fillet chunks rather than thinly sliced fish (small bones may be present) but nevertheless, still a great congee. Add a few slices of ginger to help balance out that meal.
Where to eat?
Check out all the other topics on the regional Cantonese cuisine