When I visited China I found it quite difficult to find vegetarian food, but I usually didn’t have to worry about breakfast. Most hotels offered a big pot of congee–basically porridge made from white rice. It seems to be the Chinese version of oatmeal, except that instead of maple fruit, nuts, and fruits, the congee was served with meats, stir-fried vegetables, chili pastes, and pickles of various sorts. I really enjoyed the combination of the hot creamy congee and the stir-fried Chinese greens. An excellent breakfast. Today I had some bok choy that I wanted to use up and I was excited to come across this New York Times recipe for congee with bok choy and scallion oil. It’s from a vegetarian Chinese cookbook: “From the earth: Chinese vegetarian cooking” by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo.
I used Korean rice, which is short grain and kind of sticky but probably not glutinous rice. But after an hour it had cooked down to a nice, thick porridge, so I guess it was glutinous enough. I used 1 tsp. of kosher salt, which was plenty. I added a little chili sauce (sambal oelek) to the porridge, and then it actually tasted a little too salty, since the chili sauce is salted. I couldn’t taste the ginger. I wonder why the recipe has you add it so late? I’d think you’d want it to cook with the rice.
I only used 6 Tbs. of oil in the scallion oil, but it was enough to cover all the scallions. The scallions took way longer than 3 minutes to start to brown. The scallion oil was really tasty, but it seemed wasteful to throw out the scallions so I tossed them in the congee along with the green leafy bok choy tops. Next time I’ll probably cut them up smaller, as a 3-inch long piece of scallion is a bit hard to eat. I didn’t add the scallion oil to the congee, I just drizzled a little bit on top of each bowl.
I really enjoyed the congee with the bok choy and scallion oil. It hit the spot as breakfast on a cold, rainy day here in Saarbruecken. Next time, however, I think I’ll add one more vegetable, probably shiitake mushrooms, or maybe a few sliced turnips, or even a little seaweed. I’m not sure if seaweed is traditional, but I think it would go well.
Derek was very skeptical when I said I was making congee for breakfast, but in the end he said “it’s good!” He thought it definitely needed the chili paste though.
Rating: B (probably B+ with a few tweaks)