I’m not sure why congee gets associated with health other than that it’s bland and not terribly caloric. Last year I went on a short-lived congee binge where I was convinced that if I ate porridge for dinner I’d shed a few pounds. It might’ve worked but I got bored after a few nights. A couple weeks ago a friend who’s not much of an adventurous eater asked if I’d been to Congee Village. I hadn’t, which seemed kind of criminal (I’m more of a New York Noodletown gal). I was trying to figure out how Congee Village had even gotten on her radar. It seems that through her massage therapy studies, she’d been reading up on Chinese medicine and congee was recommended somewhere in a text. It beats corn silk and pig pancreas, so I was game.
I was just happy to be able to go to a restaurant we could mutually agree on because eating with vegetarians isn’t always a treat. Of course, congee is merely one part of the menu but it had to be tried. I went for a sweet and chewy squid and ginger sauce style while the friend opted for crab. This posed a problem because she’s one of those people who gets squeamish about eating creatures when you can tell where they come from (though it’s not nearly as bad as another friend who won’t eat chicken with bones in it). The crab came hacked up, shell-on, not pure meat nicely strewn throughout the porridge and this induced a little trauma. It was a good thing I didn’t order goose intestines, fish head or duck tongue if this caused balking.
She proceeded to also order a braised tofu dish and I had steamed chicken with black mushroom. That sounds dull, but it was very flavorful (thanks to those pesky bones, I suspect) and also contained sweet, caramelized jujubes and other dried mushrooms, as well. The menu is fairly far reaching, it would take numerous visits to try everything that sounded good.
I’m afraid that all congee health benefits were canceled out by their $4 cocktails. After two whiskey sours there, I ended up on a near Lower East Side bender. I can’t do the six-drink weeknight thing as well as I used to, but I’m not ready to give up yet.
Congee Village * 100 Allen St., New York, NY
I heard that Cantonese really value the health benefits of congee, there are all kinds too, for conception, or post-childbirth recovery, or inducing lactation. I don’t get why it’s better than regular food though…
The braised tofu is making me hungry, must go shop now.
Chris: I definitely could’ve used some congee last week. I ate non-spicy noodle soups instead.