A mainstay of the Chinese breakfast circuit, traditional congee can be a little underwhelming for some western palates. However, when supercharged with garlic, chilli and shiitake mushrooms, this humble rice soup transforms into a colourful and comforting dinner with a personality of its own.
- 100 g fresh shiitake mushrooms
- 1½ tbsp vegetable oil
- 4 spring onions, finely sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
- 2–3 dried red chillies, broken
- 1 litre (4 cups) hot vegetable stock
- 80 g (⅓ cup) long grain rice, washed until water runs clear
- 2 tbsp chopped pickled mustard greens (see Note)
- salt and ground white pepper
- deep fried shallots
- sesame oil
- soy sauce
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Slice 40 g shitake mushrooms and set aside. Chop the remaining mushrooms into ½ cm pieces.
Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add most of the spring onions (reserve some for garnish), along with garlic and dried chillies and cook for 1 minute until aromatic. Add the chopped mushrooms, vegetable stock, rice and 250 ml (1 cup) of water. Bring to a rolling boil and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent catching on the bottom, until the rice is very tender and the congee has thickened slightly (if you prefer a smoother congee continue to cook until the rice breaks down further). Stir through the mustard greens and season with white pepper and a pinch of salt.
When the congee is almost ready, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a frying pan over high heat. Add the sliced mushrooms and stir fry for 2–3 minutes until golden.
Divide congee between bowls and top with mushrooms and reserved spring onions. Serve with deep fried shallots, sesame oil and soy sauce to the side.
• Pickled mustard greens are available from Asian grocers. You could substitute any pickled Asian vegetable if preferred.
Photography by Benito Martin. Styling by Lynsey Fryers. Food preparation by Alice Storey and Georgi Larby.
Tam medium bowls, both from Country Road. Slate saucer from Mud.