On my dad’s last night in Hong Kong, he knew exactly what he wanted to eat. His Asian favorite and truly the original comfort food of Hong Kong: congee rice porridge. I tried this stuff back in May and quite liked it, although personally a steaming bowl of porridge is not my strongest craving on a hot summer night. We found a little congee joint on Lock Road in TST called Chiu Fat Porridge Noodle Restaurant and went in for a bowl. Among the super-long list of congees (by topping), we found one that sounded just wonderful – 粥 with pork liver and century egg.
Although the porridge base of the jook itself was a tad too watery (it thickened a bit though as it cooled down), it was just as therapeutic and comfortable as usual. In the case of congee, it really is a textural thing – it is hearty, starchy thick, creamy and warm. It is also very clean, as no oil or fat is used in its preparation. This porridge has no real flavor of its own, besides that of plain white rice, but it takes on that of its toppings and “mix-ins”. Some add soy sauce or salt. In this particular case, we ordered the congee with pork liver strips and century egg inside. The pork liver was very nice indeed – only a tiny bit chewy, with a slight bite on the outside and a mushy, delicious texture, which unfolds while chewing, on the inside. A bit tougher than chicken liver, but smoother than that of beef. The flavor was mineral, earthy, irony and a bit “dirty” (but in a good way!), very similar to a rustic pork rillettes or pâté. It filled each spoonful of congee that contained it with tons of flavor. The century egg was also quite delicious, although I love the flavor of this particular delicacy so much that I’d rather have it on its own.
And that’s just what I did. We ordered a plate of it with ginger. I had already tried the century egg at Yung Kee a few weeks prior, but at that time it was just out of curiosity that I ordered it. This time it was for the sheer love of it. The egg was delicious. The whites were translucent and gelatinous protein, a bit like a firm aspic, jiggly, cool and refreshing. The yolks had turned from their usual bright orange color to this menacing dark blue, and were just as sinful in their flavor and texture as in their color (in a good way!) Creamy, smooth, runny, moist and much richer than their non-preserved cousins. The smell was sulfurous and extra “eggy,” which doesn’t particularly bother me since I expect an egg to smell like an egg and even if that aroma is very strong, it is still a characteristic indivisible from the egg itself. The flavor is deliciously concentrated, like that of a deviled egg with a sharp, slightly sour, slightly umami tang at the end. Serving it with extra fresh, crispy, clean pickled ginger cuts the heavy, rich flavor of the egg, lightening it a bit.