Sunday, January 24, 2016

Seafood Rice Porridge/Congee (Haixian Zhou)

Chinese seafood porridge can range from super simple to over-the-top, depending on what you put in it. That's the beauty of this dish - it's comfort food that can be as basic as just rice porridge with fish, but from there you can improvise: feel free to add shrimp, scallops (dried and/or fresh), clams, mussels, squid, crab, lobster, abalone, etc. The sky's the limit, budget withstanding of course. In my version, I start by making a flavorful but not rich seafood stock to cook the rice in. As for the seafood, I cook that separately and add it to the individual bowls of the rice porridge before serving to preserve their texture (shrimp and scallops get really rubbery if cooked too long).

8 oz. artificial crab ("Krab")
20 cups water
2 tsp. Hondashi
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1 tsp. sesame oil
2-3 slices fresh ginger

2 cups short-grained rice


1 lb. medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 lb. tilapia or other white fish filets, cut into 2" pieces
1 lb. sea scallops, sliced in half lengthwise and quartered (if pieces are large)

Marinade for Seafood:

1 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tbsp. rice wine
1 tbsp. cornstarch

1 rib celery, finely diced

1 cup thinly sliced fresh shiitake mushrooms (stems removed)


Cilantro, chopped
Scallions, thinly sliced
Ginger, thinly julienned
Oyster sauce

Optional Ingredients:

Dried scallops
Bamboo shoots

1. Place all the rice porridge ingredients except for the rice in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. Remove & discard the ginger slices after cooking.

2. In the meantime, gently toss the seafood (here I'm using shrimp, tilapia and scallops) with the marinade ingredients. Cover and place in the frig for at least 30 minutes.

3. Add the raw rice into the stock, bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer (stirring occasionally) until the rice is very soft and the mixture thickened.

4. Stir in the diced celery and sliced shiitakes. Cook for 5-10 minutes.

5. Heat 2-3 tbsp. vegetable oil over high heat in a saute pan or wok. Add the marinated seafood and stir-fry until just cooked through. Remove the pan from the heat.

6. Ladle the rice porridge into individual serving bowls and top with a generous amount of the seafood. Garnish with chopped cilantro, scallions, and finely shredded ginger. Serve with oyster sauce on the side.

Stock ingredients: ginger, hondashi, sesame oil and white pepper.

Don't look down on this ingredient! It's not crab, but it's made from fish 
and imparts a great flavor to the stock.

Simmer the stock ingredients for about 1 hour.

Add the rice to the stock, bring to a simmer, cover and cook until the rice is very soft 
and the mixture thickened.

Thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms, chopped celery, chopped cilantro, sliced scallions and thinly julienned fresh ginger.

Sea scallops, sliced in half lengthwise, then quartered.

Marinate the seafood at least 30 minutes, covered, in the frig.

Add the chopped celery and sliced shiitakes to the porridge.

Saute seafood in 2-3 tbsp. of oil over high heat until just done. 
Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

To serve: ladle the rice porridge into individual serving bowls, top with a generous amount of the seafood, and garnish with chopped cilantro, scallion and shredded ginger. You can serve with oyster sauce on the side for those who are so inclined. 

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