100 Allen St, New York, NY 10002
There’s nothing more comforting than congee, scalding in temperature, for when you’re feeling sick. Cantonese congee is boiled for such a long period of time that each millet of rice has melted into a porridge state. The balance of the rice’s earthiness and salt is delicious and goes down just right, even if it’s pipping hot and making you wince.
The first time I went to Congee Village, the BFF and I ran through torrential rain fall and entered the restaurant half soaked. We tried to hide under the oning of a fruit stall in Chinatown, but neither us or the fruits were kept dry. We decided to just run for it. The faster we ran, the faster we’d get to eat.
There aren’t many places in New York that does congee well. In fact, there aren’t many places offering it. (The market is saturated with “Chinese takeout” joints.)
In Toronto, Congee Wong is our family’s go-to spot for Sunday lunches, right before we have to make a Costco run for water and produce. Other than congee, there’s an assortment of rice and noodle dishes as well as “appetizers” like spicy stir fry radish cake with egg, scallions and preserved radish bits or dough fritters wrapped in rice paper. These are often dipped in tahini, plain soy sauce, hoisin sauce or a whatever combination you fancy.
On a rainy Spring day when I felt so ill, there was nothing more I wanted than congee. (My roommate ordered tomato soup and a grilled cheese to cure her flash sick day.) If I couldn’t stay in bed, snuggle into a ball while my mom made congee for me in the kitchen, then I was going to order it from a place where I knew could deliver the same nostalgia.
I ended up ordering a plain congee and an “assorted” congee. This is always a roll of the dice, but I was feeling adventurous that day. I also felt like dipping dough fritters into the rice porridge and ordered two of those.
Ooh, and scalding hot they were! As soon as I got home, I poured them into pots because high temperature and plastics scare me. Although the dough fritters were fresh, I opted to toast them in case a they had gotten a little soggy. What a great idea because they came out to the perfect texture for garnishing the congee with.
I snipped thin chunks onto the congee with scissors and hit it with a dash of black pepper.
The flavour of the congee is on point. The dough fritters are surprisingly meaty. Down the centre, you can split it into two separate sticks, and then again resulting in 4 thin sticks of fried dough. Some places make them very thin, but this was almost the consistency of a doughnut with a nice fluff on the inside.
The dough fritters are greasy, but that’s the point. The grease is cloaked in a layer of glutinous congee and it softens right before the point of entry — into your mouth.
Toast the dough fritters before eating them for that extra crunch.
If you’re feeling homesick, coming down with the flu or just simply want this ancient peasant cuisine in your belly, Congee Village is a good place to fulfill your wish.