108 - Pozole: Soup for the Soul

By Mary Luz Mejia

Think about what you had for breakfast this morning -- coffee, toast, cereal or a muffin on the run perhaps? In South China, these North American staples are replaced by a porridge-like soup called congee or jook.

tostadosBefore you turn up your nose at this savoury alternative, give a thought to the fact that it's not only very good for you, it's also warm comfort food on a cold winter's morning. North York's Congee Wong makes some of the best in the city. They start by boiling rice in lots of water or stock until the grains are many times their size and are partially broken down, resembling the texture of cream of wheat. This takes around two hours to achieve.

Pork, chicken or seafood can be cooked in with the soup and flavoured with garlic, scallions, ginger, and a host of herbs. One of Congee Wong's specialties is the lobster congee, artistically presented and prepared with lobster meat, it's one of the most popular on the menu.

But if you'd rather have duck, beef, other seafood including shrimp and abalone or vegetarian options, they're all available as well. Don't forget to order some yu tiao or Chinese fried crullers. These long, slightly salty deep fried dough strips are dipped into the congee for another textural dimension.

So, if you're ever feeling fatigued, drained or find yourself suffering from digestive problems, the Chinese say eating congee will help revitalize you. There may well be a grain of truth to all of this, given that rice is considered a symbol of life and the practice of throwing it at newlyweds comes from the East.

Congee Wong
10 Ravel Road
North York, Ontario


photo credit: Mary Luz Mejia