Asian Penicillin

June 10th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

So, pal, life getting you down? Boss giving you the bad eye, buddy? Boyfriend/girlfriend announced a break up, bunky? You need comfort, friend, so do what Asians (and HG) do. Have a few bowls of Congee. If chicken soup is Jewish penicillin then Congee is Asian penicillin. Every Asian mom has her own version (the dish is also called okayu in Japan, Jook in Korea and in Indonesia, Bubur Ayam.) Essentially, it is rice porridge. You can add, shrimp, scallops, pork, beef, chicken or hard boiled egg. You can top it with peanuts, fried garlic, fried shallots, sesame oil. You can flavor it with Sriracha, soy sauce, garlic chile sauce. With each spoonful, the blues will be banished. HG guarantees it. HG began eating Congee at the busy, no frills Congee Noodle House on Broadway in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood of Vancouver, B.C. A very heartening breakfast on one of Vancouver’s many rainy mornings. At Congee Noodle House, the Congee was accompanied by a fried cruller (a rather greasy special taste). HG ignored the cruller but accompanied the Congee with fiery chile pepper fried squid or minnows. The Congee at the restaurant was very smooth similar to grits or Cream of Wheat. At home in Santa Fe, HG makes the Indonesian version—Bubur Ayam. The rice is not a puree. It retains some body.You can find a very good, authentic recipe on The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook website. Eat Congee. Be Happy.

salmon congee 1

Super Congee

March 20th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

HG prepared the ultimate comfort food — congee — upon the arrival in New Mexico of Beautiful Granddaughter Sofia. A note to the uninitiated: Congee — also known as “jook” — is Chinese rice porridge, a warming hug of a dish. HG and BSK were converted to congee during their long residence in Vancouver. A few hundred yards from their loft was Congee Noodle House where scores of Asians ate — you guessed it — congee and noodles. Some of the Asian customers added black “hundred year” eggs to their congee. Others accompanied it with fried Chinese crullers. HG and BSK usually added chopped oysters, scallops, prawns or mushrooms to their steaming bowls. When making congee at home, HG uses Ottogi Vegetable Rice Porridge Mix (available online from Hmart). Very savory, much simpler and less time consuming than making congee from scratch. For the Welcome Dinner, HG gave the recipe a twist: In place of plain water, HG substituted good chicken broth (HG likes Trader Joe’s Free Range broth) and shitake infused water (the dried shitakes were sourced from Sante Fe’s Talin International Food Market). Chopped mushrooms were added to the congee and –a few minutes before serving — a pound of shucked oysters and their juices were plunked into the pot. The servings got a topping of chopped scallions. A happy and soothing feast.

Quick Congee

December 9th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

On a chill morning nothing beats a steaming bowl of congee (also known as jook). When HG was resident in a Vancouver loft, HG often walked to nearby Congee Noodle House for a bowl (accompanied by pork rice crepes, shrimp wontons or chile fried squid). There were some 20 varieties of congee served there. Most of the Chinese diners specified an ominous, black “thousand year egg” be popped in their bowl, HG opted for chopped oysters, black mushrooms or large prawns. The congee was topped with gingko nuts. It takes a bit of time to make proper congee but HG has discovered a time saving remedy. H Mart, the Korean grocery chain and online purveyor of all foods Korean, offers packaged Ottogi Rice Porridge. Boil a package with four cups of water (stir until you get the right consistency) and you have a very pleasant pot of jook. HG had some this morning accompanied by a few very good steamed pork buns produced by the O’ Tasty Food Co. HG added some chopped Pacific oysters to his congee plus a dash of the inevitable sriracha. Topped it with some Planter’s Cocktail Peanuts (sounds odd but tastes great). Was instantly transported to Vancouver, or as the natives dub it, Van Kong.

Rainy Morning Heaven: Congee Noodle House

August 22nd, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

For almost a dozen years HG and BSK owned some beautiful Vancouver dwellings (a duplex loft in an old church blessed with spectacular views, a modernist architect’s loft, a steel and glass town house) and spent much time in that glorious city. Vancouver is a tantalizing blend of Canada and Asia. The center of this foodcentric town is the Public Market on Granville Island. Great fruit and vegetables. Every type of fish, shellfish, charcuterie, baguettes, pastry, pasta, cheese, etc., etc. All food fantasies are fulfilled in this joyous bustling space.

Vancouver is (like Seattle) very moist. Rain can be a steady companion for much of the year. HG enjoyed his rainy, Vancouver mornings at the Congee Noodle House (Broadway and Main Street in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood). This is a big, noisy Hong Kong type restaurant that specializes — you guessed it!! — in congee and noodle dishes. Rain would pelt the windows but HG was comfortably settled down with hot tea and the New York Times and the Toronto Globe & Mail. HG would dip into big bowls of congee (comforting Chinse rice porridge for readers who are unfamiliar) enriched with chopped oysters or shrimp or giant Chinese mushrooms (sometimes a combination of all three). The bowls were sprinkled with salty peanuts. Most of the restaurant diners accompanied their congee with Chinese crullers (HG found them nasty) while HG opted for fried squid covered with fried garlic and hot peppers. Happy minutes would stretch into hours and HG would supplement his Asian breakfast with barbecued pork rice crepes and delicious, thin skinned won tons filled with juicy prawns. Vancouver has lots of great restaurants (Vij’s for Indian/Fusion and Tojo’s for imaginative sushi, among them) but funky, soulful Congee Noodle House retains a special place in HG’s culinary heart.

Vicki Whites

December 9th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

HG’s usual beverage with Chinese food is beer (sometimes mixed with Guiness Stout for a Black-and Tan). Never found an agreeable wine that enhanced Chinatown cuisine. Until…

At the feast HG recently enjoyed at Congee on the Bowery, Restaurateur Daughter Vicki F. brought two wines that added a new, positive dimension to the meal. Wine One: Sauvignon Blanc. Box O’ Birds, Marlborough, New Zealand 2011. Wine Two: Riesling, Thirsty Owl, Finger Lakes, N.Y. 2009. Super yummy. Would go nicely with Indian food, HG believes.

New York Is Chinatown

December 7th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Yes, New York is world capital of culture, finance, style, skyscrapers and virtually everything else. But, to greedy HG, New York means Chinatown, dim sum, congee and other treats. So, after a night’s sleep following some 11 hours of air travel from Bologna it was off to Chinatown for a dim sum lunch with Gorgeous Restaurateur Daughter (Five Points, Cookshop, Hundred Acres) Vicki F. Destination for HG and BSK was Nom Wah (SJ recently posted a memorable piece of prose about this vintage eatery).

Talk about a trip down Memory Lane. As SJ has remarked, the old place got cleaned up but retained every bit of its funky appearance. HG was startled. It seemed nothing had changed since he first ate there some 56 (!!) years ago. Vicki ordered brilliantly and though the decor had not changed, the food was better. Har Gow and Shu Mai were among the best HG had ever consumed.

That night the trio was joined by SJ. Exquisite Maiko, Adorable Haru and Vicki’s husband and partner, Marc M. The site was Congee on 98 Bowery. Yes, there was congee. But, also fried squid, a couple of large, steamed flounders, clams in blacks bean sauce, sauteed greens, etc. Lots of food. Lots of joy.

Putting Some Seoul On The HG Plate.

October 10th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

HG and BSK cook Turkish kefta, Armenian eggplant, French Boeuf Bourguinon, Spanish paella, Moroccan couscous and loads of Italian pasta. But, no hearty, spicy Korean fare. Now, we are ready to get some Seoul stuff going. The package from the excellent Korean online food source, arrived today. Chili paste, dry pepper, malt syrup and other staples of the Korean kitchen. Armed with Cecilia Hae Jin Lee’s “Quick & Easy Korean Cooking” the greedy duo is about to begin. HG will keep you informed of progress (or lack of it). Very much want to try black sesame rice porridge, a type of Korean congee topped with honey and toasted pine nuts. HG fancies shozu, the vodka-like Korean spirit. Have not been able to source it. Will have to be content with 100% agave tequila and Sam Adams Oktoberfest Lager chasers. May wind up with face in the kimchi.

Tasty Mr. Peanut

March 16th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Unchanging. Slightly retro. HG refers to Planters Salted Cocktail Peanuts. Crack open that pop-top lid and revel in whooosh of escaping air and fresh, peanut aroma. Grab a handful and yes, they’re nice with an ice cold martini. But, don’t stop there. These nuts have many delightful uses. HG likes to sprinkle them on a steaming bowl of congee. They are irreplaceable in a Tin Roof, the dessert of vanilla ice cream, Hershey’s chocolate syrup—and crunchy, salty peanuts. They are a splendid accompaniment to chicken curry. They are a nice addition to a chicken or beef or pork stir fry. When making a chicken salad with last night’s roast chicken add Planters to a dressing of mayonnaise and chutney. Make a place in your pantry for Planters’ unassuming, pleasant little treat.

Congee: Like Nestling In Your Mother’s Arms.

March 16th, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

Congee is the Queen of Comfort Foods. Soothing. Nourishing. Savory. Infinitely flexible. Essentially, congee is rice porridge. Bears a close resemblance to soupy grits. Doesn’t sound like much. But, HG and hundreds of millions of Chinese can’t be wrong (and not just Chinese, but almost every Asian country has its own version of Congee) It is very yummy stuff, indeed. Very addictive. When the world has been treating you shabbily and Mom isn’t around, turn to congee for comfort.

Okay. How to make it? That very good food blog,, has a sure fire recipe for a big pot of congee. Here goes: 10 cups of stock (chicken or vegetable). Two cups of rice. Two tablespoons Chinese rice vinegar. Five slices of ginger. Tablespoon of kosher salt. Bring these ingredients to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and keep pot covered. Stir occasionally. Cook for one to one and 1/2 hours until it has a porridge-like consistency. Add more stock (or water) if it gets too thick.

Now, you can get creative. Add to your bowl some left over chicken (as HG mentioned in yesterday’s Spatchcocked Chicken Post). Give it a hit of sesame oil. Maybe some sriracha for heat and spice. Sliced scallions. Parsley and/or cilantro. HG likes to top it with Planter’s Salted Cocktail Peanuts (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it). When HG lived in Vancouver he dined often at Congee House, a perfectly named restaurant. HG watched patrons add black hundred year eggs, bok choy, shrimp, duck, roast pork, chicken feet and more to their steaming bowls of congee. As HG said: Congee is flexible. HG’s congee favorite: Buy some shucked oysters at a Whole Foods fish counter. Chop coarsely. Add to your congee with some parsley and a bit of soy sauce. You will be grateful to HG.

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