Sunday, December 26, 2010

Preserved Duck Egg & Pork Congee (Pi Dan Shou Rou Zhou)

When I was knee-high to a grasshopper, I used to call these ebony-hued & ghouly green-centered duck productions "Thousand Year Old Eggs." Not a diss, but simply the moniker that was passed down to me by the family elders. Nevertheless, I have to admit I absolutely abhorred the taste of this seeming abomination of nature throughout my formative years. My grandma would always serve these eggs as an appetizer for Chinese New Year, and I always had to find a way to pretend that I ate them. But who was I to judge, since I had the extremely poor taste back then to also despise anything that remotely emoted onion - e.g., bulb onions, scallions, chives, etc., etc. As a reformed adult, however, with more mature tastes, I grew to like not only onions of every ilk, but also this spectacular, eggtacular delight for its culinary merits. Gotta admit, though, I still hate that other childhood pet peeve of mine: sea cucumber...

Congee is basically a rice porridge and comes in many iterations. It can be made plain, with seafood, pork, or other meats. This version is quite common and well-known to the Chinese palate. I don't know its exact origin (I don't believe it's Taiwanese, as we've always eaten just plain congee at home and I never had this until I came to LA), but I've concocted by own version over the years and think it's good eats.

2 3/4 lbs. pork country ribs (bone in or boneless, whatever's available)
2 gallons + 1 qt. (9 qts. or 36 cups) water
1 tbsp. Hondashi
1 tbsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. Chinese white pepper
1 tsp. sesame oil

4 preserved duck eggs, each cut into 6 pcs. 
2 tbsp. finely shredded ginger
1/2 cup chopped scallion
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

3 cups (by cups I mean the plastic measuring cup that comes with your rice cooker) of short-grained rice

Yiu Tiao (those chinese donut things that look like churros), chopped for garnish

1. Fill large stock pot with 2 gallons + 1 quart (9 qts) of water. Add country ribs, 1 tbsp. Hondashi, 1 tbsp. kosher salt, and bring to a boil. Skim off any foam that develops. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 1/2-2 hours until pork is tender. During this time, if stock reduces too much, add more water as needed.

2. When pork is tender, remove to a chopping board and let cool until easy to handle. In the meantime, keep stock on low simmer. Shred meat from bones and set aside. 

3. Add 3 cups of rice to the stock and bring heat up if necessary to bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer. Add shredded meat, 1 tsp. sesame oil and 1/2 tsp. white pepper to the rice mixture. Cover and cook over low heat for another 30 minutes or until rice is cooked through. 

4. At end of cooking, add more white pepper and sesame oil to taste, as needed. 

5. To serve: Pour congee into individual serving bowls and top with diced preserved duck eggs, shredded ginger, scallion, cilantro, and yiu tiao (if you have them). Serve sesame oil and white pepper on the side as condiments. 

Add country ribs to 9 qts. of water. Bring to a boil and skim off 
any foam that forms on top.

My mom's home-bottled jar of Hondashi, 
a Japanese seasoning made from bonito fish.

Add 3 tsp. (1 tbsp.) of Hondashi and 1 tbsp. kosher salt to the broth.

After pork is tender and removed from the broth, add 3 cups of uncooked rice. 

 Add 1/2 tsp. white pepper.

Remove pork from the bone and shred.

Add pork back to broth.

Chop scallion, cilantro, and preserved duck egg.

Preserved duck eggs usually come in packages of 6. 
They will last forever, if kept in the frig.

Season with a little more sesame oil and/or white pepper before serving. 

Garnish with scallions, cilantro, ginger and diced preserved duck egg. If you have Yiu Tiao, then by all means chop em up and sprinkle on top as a garnish. Yum!

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