Congee, also known as rice porridge or jook, is a combination of just three ingredients: rice, water, and salt. Although these ingredients are simple, the different combinations of mix-ins and toppings can take this humble dish to the next level.
Pork is a common protein choice for many congee recipes, so for this recipe I used a combination of both pork and seafood to add a variety of textures. In Cantonese, tang jai jook or sampan jook is often thought of as seafood congee thanks to its rich history along the southern waters of the Guangdong region of China.
The Rich History of Seafood Congee
Before the industrial urbanization and economic boom in Guangdong, locals worked predominantly in the seafood and fishing industry. There were many fishing villages in Lychee Bay, and fishermen would pack their pots of congee before going off to work. After their morning shift, they would add their fresh catches to the rice porridge for a boost of protein and flavor.
Over time, these fishermen started to sell the congee with their daily harvest on their little boats. That’s why this kind of congee is called tang jai jook, which translates to little boat porridge. It is also known as sampan jook, which translates to three plank congee, referring to the little boats made of planks.
While there are many recipes and variations of seafood congee, this recipe is based on the congee from my favorite childhood restaurant in Chinatown in New York: Wing Wong and Big Wong.
Choosing Seafood and Toppings for Congee
For simplicity, this congee recipe uses slightly chewy squid as the featured seafood. Look for fresh or frozen calamari strips or calamari rings and cut them in half. You can add additional seafood such as shrimp, octopus, fish slices, clams, and oysters.
If you feel like being fancy, consider adding rehydrated dried scallops. Even though they are considerably more expensive, the drying process intensifies and amplifies their flavor and it is one of the few instances where dried is better than fresh.
Do not sleep on the roasted and lightly salted red skin peanuts. They bring a depth of roasted flavors with a delightful crunch. The salt crystals cling to the red skin, adding a touch of saltiness.
What Is Youtiao?
This signature congee is commonly served with youtiao, Chinese fried dough sticks. They are sometimes known as Chinese crullers, with a light crunchy surface and a soft and tender interior with large pockets of holes. This structure is the perfect medium to absorb congee as you dip the sticks in a bowl with one hand and stuff your face with spoonfuls with the other.
The youtiao are completely optional since they are very popular and tend to sell out in the morning. Trust me, I am not a morning person, so I’ve had tang jai jook many times without it. Look for them at Cantonese barbecue shops or select Chinese restaurants and bakeries. You can also find them in the frozen aisle in your local Asian supermarket; I found mine at H-mart.
Satisfying Seafood Recipes
Seafood Congee (Tang Jai Jook)
For the congee
1/2 pound lean boneless pork shoulder, very thinly sliced
1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons freshly ground white pepper
1 cup jasmine rice
10 cups water
1/2 pound calamari strips
1 (2-inch) piece ginger, peeled and very thinly sliced
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup roasted red skin peanuts, lightly salted
2 youtiao, to serve, optional
Season the pork:
Add the sliced pork, Shaoxing wine, salt, ground ginger, and white pepper to a medium bowl and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate until the congee is ready.
Prepare the rice:
Wash and rinse the rice with cold water until the water runs clear. Strain.
Cook the congee:
Add the water to a pot over high heat and bring to a rolling boil. Lower the heat to medium and add the rinsed and drained rice. With a spatula or wooden spoon, give the rice a gentle stir so it is evenly distributed in the pot.
Place the lid slightly ajar on top of the pot and adjust the heat to maintain a low simmer. Cook the congee, without stirring, until the outline of the grains of rice is no longer visible, 1 1/2 hours.
Add the pork and seafood and cook:
Remove the lid and gently stir the congee. If desired, you can add additional water for a looser consistency.
Add the salted pork and calamari strips. Stir to submerge them in the congee. Stir frequently to prevent the protein from sticking to the pot. Cook until the pork is no longer pink, another 10 to 15 minutes. Add salt to taste, if needed.
Garnish and serve:
Add the seafood congee to a bowl and garnish with the sliced ginger, scallion, and red peanuts. Serve warm with youtiao.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 4 to 6|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 15g||19%|
|Saturated Fat 4g||19%|
|Total Carbohydrate 21g||7%|
|Dietary Fiber 1g||5%|
|Total Sugars 1g|
|Vitamin C 3mg||17%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|