Thursday, November 03, 2005

Congee and Noodle Houses

There are many forms of Chinese cuisine, with different restaurants catering to specific styles of food and food preparation methods.  In addition to the traditional restaurants that offer choices of entrée items for communal dining, some popular ones include Dim Sum, Hot pot, Hong Kong style diners, as well as Chinese bakeries.

The type of Chinese restaurant we tried this past weekend was the Congee/Noodle House. Congee is a hot rice porridge, seasoned with parsley, green onion and salt.  It can be cooked with any combination of meat, seafood or vegetables, adding to the flavour of the broth.  Interestingly, the spice provided to give congee more zip is a white pepper powder, not the traditional black pepper.  A hearty dish which is great on a cold day, congee is usually consumed with deep fried dough fritters that can be dipped into the congee.  Topping off the experience is a plate of Chinese vegetables, blanched then stir fried in oil and served with oyster sauce.

While my parents usually like congee with seafood(shrimp, scallop, white fish, squid) or duck meat, my favorite for some strange reason happens to be pork liver and meat balls. This is unfortunate since liver is the only thing my husband Rich cannot eat even to be polite The first time I introduced the concept of congee to him, he was sick with a cold. For me growing up, congee was comfort food, like chicken soup, so I thought it might make him feel better. When I described to him my favorite congee, he turned two shades greener than he already was, and to this day, he cannot eat any type of congee since he forever associates it with liver.

One thing that even Rich cannot dispute is what a great bargain congee is in Chinese restaurants. A good sized bowl of congee with various ingredients ranges from around $3.75 to $6.00 and makes an extremely satisfying meal for 2 or more people. When Rich was in Vegas recently, he stayed at the Ceasars Palace hotel, where they were offering plain congee for $19 US Currency (remember - congee is basically water and rice)! The chicken congee was $27US!

Luckily congee places also offer many styles of noodle and rice/fried rice, so Rich has something he can eat.  There is quite a variety of Chinese noodle dishes usually stir-fried with sauces and different combinations of meats, seafood and vegetables These include crunchy chow mein, rice noodles, glass noodles and vermicelli. You can also get shrimp wonton noodle soup, which is another great choice for a cold day.

Congee Wong
3235 Hwy 7, Markham, ON L3R 0J5

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