So I tried Congee tonight. The things I do for this blog (and for my own personal curiosity and research for my own life).
It looks awful right? There's not much that can be said about the presentation of it except to say it looks awful.
The taste? Well... it wasn't at all bad. BUT... well... the texture just wasn't quite right for me.
So it turns out that congee is a traditional Chinese dish for the sick. It requires no chewing and contains a whole lot of stuff that is good for you. So it's sustenance.
However... it has potential. My biggest complaint while we were walking back from the food court which I brought it from was the fact that it felt a little stodgy. While I know that it contains a whole lot of really good stuff, it just didn't give me the sort of energy boost that most of the meals I've been eating lately has given me.
It's the sort of thing that I think should probably be cooked in big portions. The bowl I got was HUGE and felt daunting and I was told that it was mostly water in which case, even given the big portion, it would probably be about the same as eating a meal the same size as the meals that I've been eating. The comment was made that it's probably best made for an entire day's food. So you'd make a big pot of it and eat it throughout the day. This works as it would mean that you could then take the number of meals you have in a day, multiply out the amount you spend on each meal, and spend whatever is left after the rice on things to make it interesting.
So pretty soon I'm going to start playing around with it. So the ways I think it could be improved:
More veges. This is probably the hardest bit for me. I don't like overcooked veges - especially when they've become grey. So I'm thinking of a more risotto approach. My approach to risotto is to make risotto blanco (white risotto) and then add whatever flavour I want. So for a chicken mushroom risotto, I would make the risotto and cook the chicken and mushrooms (I've got a few tips for mushrooms) separately and mix them through at the end. This allows me to have a starchy, al denté, risotto with mushrooms browned just right and grilled chicken thighs on the top.
Made a little thicker. Whenever I eat a soup I think of it as an appetizer. Before even the entrée (I mean the non Hell's Kitchen version of an entrée which comes before the main) a little something to whet the appetite. So, if this isn't for the sick, then it could have a texture a little closer to a porridge with veges and meat through it.
Writing this I'm wondering what would distinguish this from a risotto. Which was one of my initial thoughts about it (and something Renedox told me straight off about it) - it's kind of a risotto with overcooked rice.
While I would hesitate to put sardines or tuna in a risotto, I wouldn't do so with congee. Rice by any other name... So it's a chance to play with Asian flavours. For a more upmarket version, you could make it closer to a risotto (though with the rice over cooked) and top it with a few well cooked bits of pork belly on a plate with perhaps a bit of steamed bok choy on the side to give it a bit of colour.
It's going to be fun to experiment with this dish...