There’s a brilliant vegetarian restaurant in Surry Hills called Nourishing Quarter. It’s on Cleveland Street next to the Norfolk. I’ve had their vietnamese style congee more times than I care to admit. As Husband and I are entering the detox zone, I set my heart on congee for dinner last night only to discover, to my dismay, that they were closed due to Labour Day holiday. Throwing my laziness out the door, I rummaged the cupboards in hope of conjuring up my own version of this tasty bowl of goodness.
Unlike the traditional chinese congee, Nourishing Quarter uses ancient grains instead of rice. This makes for a lighter in starchiness and slightly bigger in flavour soup, and a pleasing sense of moral superiority. And I love the look of it. Quinoa, once cooked, turns into a pretty curly grain and the amaranth a pleasant white pearl. The restaurant doesn’t add fish obviously, being a vego restaurant, but I like fish in a congee and this is my version. Feel free to adapt as required.
This recipe is a work in progress (i.e. it will change with each crack at it – read improvement!). This is my first pass so keep an eye on it if you are interested.
It seems like a long list of ingredients, but frankly… make do. If you have it in the cupboard add it, if not, the sky will not fall in.
- 1 cup quinoa (white or the coloured mix would look good)
- 1 cup amaranth
- 1/2 cup chia seeds
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 2 small onions/1 medium, chopped finely
- 3-5 stalks celery, chopped finely
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 inch knob of ginger, finely chopped
- Roots from 1 bunch of coriander, heartily bashed and finely chopped (leaves retained for garnish)
- 2 tablespoons dried fungus, rehydrated
- 1 tablespoon dried shrimp, rehydrated
- 1/2 tablespoon szechuan peppers, pounded in the mortar and pestle
- 4 dried red chillis
- 1 teaspoon cloves, ground
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, toasted and ground
- 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
- peanut oil, for cooking
- 200g oyster mushrooms, ripped into pieces
- 300g baby corn, chopped into small rounds
- 500g medium-firm white fleshed fish
Choose whatever you like from this list (as per your budget/tastebuds) but you won’t go astray by having them all. Coriander, chilli, lime and bean sprouts are a must!
- red chillis, chopped and deseeded (or pickled red chilli if available)
- coriander leaves (roots retained for making the soup)
- bean sprouts
- fresh lime (or lemon) segments
- red vinegar (a sweet chinese vinegar)
- red cabbage, finely shredded
- mint leaves, shredded
- hot basil or vietnamese basil
- In a large heavy based pan over medium heat add your peanut oil.
- When hot, add the chopped onion, garlic, ginger, coriander root and celery.
- Saute till softened. We aren’t going for colour just fragrance.
- Add the spices and allow to cook out for a moment or two (again, till they smell fragrant).
- Add the rehydrated shrimp and fungus along with the soaking liquid
- Chuck in the quinoa, amaranth, chia, soy sauce and chicken stock.
- Stir well, cover and reduce heat to as low as possible. Leave to cook for about an hour – checking your liquid levels from time to time (add boiling water if required or more stock if you have it)
- Add the baby corn and allow to cook for 5 minutes or so (till the corn has softened a little)
- Add the mushrooms and fish. Cook for just a minute or two till the fish is just cooked.
- Serve into a bowl.
- Squeeze some lime juice over the top of the bowl
- The garnishes can be served in individual bowls on the table or arrayed on top of the congee bowl in pie-shaped sections