Congee is not only one of China's most popular breakfast dishes but also a regular accompaniment to other side orders eaten throughout the day.
The plain porridge meal is often considered as food therapy when you have an upset stomach and it is usually served with pork floss, pickled cucumbers, and salted duck eggs.
Another regular condiment for porridge is furu, a kind of fermented tofu that is very salty with a wine flavor. It might be peculiar for foreign tastes, but is a typical dish on a Chinese breakfast table.
There are sweet types of congee and salty types. The sweet types are usually cooked with dried jujube fruits, dried longan fruits, white fungus and walnut. Chinese people believe that this congee has benevolent effects on the human body.
During Laba Festival (the eighth day of the 12th month on Chinese lunar calendar), temples in Hangzhou hand out free sweet congee to people as a way to celebrate the enlightenment of Buddha.
Salty congee is usually prepared with meat. The most common one is congee with shredded pork and sliced century eggs. People in Guangdong Province, especial in the Chaoshan region, are known for eating a cassoulet congee with seafood.
Shanghai Daily introduces three types of congee and where to find them in Hangzhou.
Different from the Hokkien-style congee, the Cantonese congee is far less thick and the rice is wholly dissolved in water after hours of simmering.
Having congee is usually related with the habit of "morning tea" in Cantonese-speaking areas. But it is obviously not just about tea.
People would order up to 20 different types of dim sum in a casual family gathering for morning tea. Congee comes last as the staple part.
The kind of congee unique to Guangdong is the "freshly boiled" congee (生滚粥). The white porridge is considered as a base for boiling ingredients like fish fillet, pork, beef and chicken.
Congee with pork entrails and pork meatballs are called "To be a principal graduate" (状元及第粥). Legend has it that an impoverished scholar will achieve the highest score in an imperial examination after eating this congee. Locals, therefore, buy the congee for their kids when there is an important exam in the hope of ensuring them good results.
Each restaurant has its own recipe for making the congee base.
The meat is cooked in the boiling congee very similar to what you do in a hotpot. A fish fillet congee is made in two minutes.
The secret is to control the timing, so the congee has a silky texture while the fish is really tender.
Where to eat:
• Zhouhuang Porridge Restaurant
Address: 3/F, Wenhui Tower,
118 Hushu Rd S.