Coming from a small town on Vancouver Island, there are many things that I haven’t had the opportunity to try yet. I’ve been curious about Congee, and when we happened to be in the neighbourhood of the Congee Noodle House at dinner time it seemed like the perfect opportunity to try something new.
I knew Congee was some kind of rice-based soup that could have almost anything in it – but beyond that I was lost. The menu was massive and we didn’t have as much time as we would have liked to look through it (we had movie tickets!)
We started off by ordering some “House Special” (aka anything goes) hot and sour soup, and Jared ordered a Mixed Seafood Congee, while I went with a Chicken and Mushroom Congee. We had no idea how giant everything would be! Good thing we enjoyed it since we ended up eating leftovers the whole next day.
While we waited for the food, I spent a little time reading an article on the wall which was touting the health benefits of eating Congee. What is it? Why is it good for you?
Congee is a name that is currently applied to many different types of a thick, rice-based porridge that has a long history as an Asian breakfast food. It also has a long history of use as a dietary therapy. At its base, it is water, rice and salt. After that? If the menu at Congee Noodle House is typical then absolutely anything goes once you’ve got the base cooked to the consistency you want it. It seems to be the Asian equivalent of chicken noodle soup. Don’t feel well? You get yourself a nice warm bowl of Congee and you’ll be fixed right up.
I have to say, I was really impressed by the way it stayed nice and thick and piping hot all the way to the bottom of the bowl. For anyone attempting to eat the giant chunks of mushrooms, be warned they hold the heat really well! The flavour was rich but not overwhelming, and the seafood Congee had all kinds of different things in it but didn’t taste “fishy”. Octopus, shrimp, scallops, “fish” (which really could be anything) and whatever else the chef felt like putting in it that day.
As is his habit, Jared got adventurous with the various spicy looking condiments, and stirred in a fairly generous amount of the darkest colour chili paste. When we asked our server what it was she said “good” with a grin, so we decided we’d let our taste buds take it from there. Always trust your server! It wasn’t super spicy, but it did round out the flavours of the seafood congee nicely and gave the dish a bit of extra zip.
The verdict? Loved it. We’ll definitely have to try a few different places so I can get a sense of how Congee varies from restaurant to restaurant, but I don’t consider that much of a hardship. And hey, if it happens to lead to a long and healthy life at the same time – who are we to argue?
Next time we visit the Congee Noodle House we’ll have to go in a larger group so we can make a bigger dent in their mammoth menu! Just remember to bring cold hard cash. It’s all affordable eats, but they don’t take plastic.