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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Lean Meat and Century Egg Congee - A Traditional Asian dish

Asian cuisine can be some of the most forgiving dishes.  There's rarely an exact recipe, rather rough ratios.  You can add whatever you like in whatever amounts you like.  There really aren’t any rules.  Any deviation from a recipe is called a "secret" recipe.  

The lean meat and century egg congee is a dish that is considered common cafe food.  It is just as popular in Asian countries as chips and tortillas are popular in Austin, TX.  While it isn't considered peasant food, it definitely isn't considered upscale fare.  You won't find it at any fancy or event semi-fancy restaurant, but you might find it at a dim sum restaurant.

As my mother made this particular batch, I looked online at other recipes.  And many of them were deeply involved and time consuming.  As my mother says, "Why make things so complicated?"  This version is quick and easy.  From the very start to finish, it look no longer than seven minutes.  Again, it isn't fancy.  It isn't even pretty.  But it is comfort food to a portion of the population.  

Century egg is one of those Asian foods that might be difficult to understand.  These eggs are not visually pleasing.  The flavor of can be intensely eggy and pungent. The texture can be rubbery and gelatinous.  Some other people might find these qualities unattractive, but I don't find century egg to be unpleasant or offensive.  They are usually individually wrapped and fairly inexpensive.  Most Asian grocery stores will have them.  If you're adventurous, try century eggs!

Adjust ingredients to your liking.  The raw ginger can be pretty harsh for those who aren't accustomed to it.  Cut back the ginger or mince into tiny pieces.  Any type of meat is suitable, however, lean pork meat is the most traditional.  


4 cups cooked rice (I use the sticky kind)
1 piece of raw ginger (roughly 1/2 oz) - julienned or
4 ounces of raw minced pork.  Ground pork is also okay.  
3-4 Century eggs diced or sliced.  It doesn't matter what shape it is in.
1 pinch salt
1 pinch white pepper
1 bunch of green onions, sliced
6 cups of water or chicken broth.

In a large pot, boil the water/broth.  Add the raw meat to the water, and allow it to cook. You could add the meat to the water before it boils too.  It really makes no difference.  My mother puts the meat in nearly frozen. If you are squeamish, you might want to skim the scum off the top pot after the meat has cooked.  Add in the raw ginger, and cooked rice.  Let the rice cook for 3-5 minutes.  It should start to get soft and the liquid should become almost gelatinous.  Congee typically as the consistency of a pudding, but if you like it more like a soup, add more water.  If you like it thicker like an oatmeal, cook it longer.  My mother says that this particular dish should be fairly soup-y, but culinary freedom is in your hands.  

Once the rice is almost the consistency you want, add in the century eggs, salt, and pepper.  Garnish with green onion when serving.  Tada.....easy to make Lean Meat and Century Egg Congee. 

A shelled egg.  The color of eggs can range from light yellow, gray, and to a deep brown. 

The eggs are certainly colorful. 

Frozen minced meat ready to be chopped.

Cutting up the ginger, which happened to be frozen too.

The meat and ginger are cooking.

The soup is ready now.  If you leave it uncovered, it will thicken into a sticky mass.  You can thin it out with with water later. 

A piece of century egg.

A close up.  Easy and comforting.

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