Just Your Average Zhou?

Updated 2014-01-15 09:03:25 CRIENGLISH.com
Blue Swimmer Crab Congee with Chinese doughnut. [Photo: wikimedia.org]

William Wang

Congee ("zhou" in Mandarin), or rice porridge, is a common dish in many countries and its roots in Guangzhou go particularly deep. As a common staple of the Guangzhou diet, it is characteristically modest: an everyman's food that is eaten every morning in every neighborhood of the city.

Basically, rice is boiled down in many times its weight in water or stock. The rice then breaks down into the desired consistency, whereupon the porridge can be loaded up with everything from pickled tofu to salted duck eggs. In Northern China, sweet red bean may be the flavor of choice, but down south, savory styles reign supreme.

Often served plain, it's more of a Monday to Friday type of breakfast; dim sum typically goes down better for weekend meals with friends and family in the region. However, this doesn't mean that congee can't get its bling on. Squid, frog legs, and chili peppers regularly make appearances as toppings for congee. Jidi congee, which features pig's liver, kidneys and intestines, is a beloved Guangzhou classic.

Congee is a snap to find in Hangzhou. It's available in fancier restaurants such as Liuhua Congee (which has several Guangzhou branches), but is also abundant in street stalls crisscrossing the city.

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