Monday, June 23, 2008
Dried Scallop Congee
Yesterday was a very very stormy day. Typhoon FengShen devastated Central and Northern Philippines. Now, it is on its way to Taiwan, Southern China and Japan, leaving many people dead or homeless, and a passenger ferry capsized (more deaths.) If not for the news, we would have been so removed from the reality of these disasters around us, because we had to stay put inside our own homes.
In Asia, we call a tropical cyclone, a typhoon. Elsewhere, it is called a hurricane. But basically, they are the same weather disturbance that originates at sea. In Asia, our typhoons come from from the Pacific Ocean. It brings heavy rains, thunderstorms, and the dreaded powerful winds that damages properties and can topple anything in its path. I remember two years ago, Typhoon Millenium brought powerful winds that all our sliding doors and window glasses on the fifth floor were broken. That was the first and only time my family had experienced such winds.
When there is a typhoon, powerlines are often down. My mom would then cook something simple but warming and nourishing. More often than not, it would just be a simple congee. And I have done the same for my own family. It is a complete dish in one, with protein and complex carbohydrates. It brings warmth to the body on a cold stormy day. It comforts and calms our minds while strong winds are lashing outside.
This picture shows the dried scallops. Dried scallops or conpoy is a type of dried seafood made from the adductor muscles of scallops. Its taste is rich, marine, intense. According to Wikipedia, it has high content of various amino acids and minerals such as calcium and zinc. In Hong Kong, where we buy dried scallops, it is considered a delicacy because it has complex flavor that enhances various dishes. It is ideal to use scallops to flavor congee, and for stir frying various vegetables. Even if it is a relatively expensive ingredient, we do not have to use a lot to impart flavor to our dishes. Like for this 4 bowls of congee, I only used 3 medium pieces.
Dried scallops have to be prepared before cooking. I would usually wash a cup or two of dried scallops. Boil and simmer them in water for half an hour until softened. When cooled, I would divide them (scallops and broth) into serving sizes, store them in the freezer for future use. When I need some for cooking, I would just get a pack of pre-cooked dried scallops from the freezer. It would not be convenient to soften a little amount of dried scallops every time.
While the scallops impart the flavor, the main ingredient of congee is the Rice. Rice is the main staple of the Asian people. For most Filipinos, it is difficult to imagine a meal without rice. Because a meal without rice is perceived as "not filling" enough. As children, we are taught to give due respect to the rice farmers because of their back-breaking work planting rice in water paddies under the hot tropical sun. Magtanim ay di biro, maghapong naka-yuko...
Rice is a good nutritious food. Rice is high in complex carbohydrates, contains almost no fat, is cholesterol free. All rice, red, brown and white, is considered a good source of vitamins and minerals. Red rice is the rice wherein only the husk is removed. It is not milled and polished like the white rice that you often see in the market. White rice is simply polished and milled red or brown rice (color depending on the variety). Although almost all the nutrients are stripped from white rice when the bran layer is removed during milling, most of the rice sold in the market are enriched with minerals lost during the milling process. So, you have to check out the label to know what minerals your rice contains. Rice is gluten-free and easily digestible making it a good choice for infants and people with wheat allergies or digestive problems. To know more about how rice is grown and what the different types of rice are, please click here.
I mixed 1 part organic long grain red rice with 3 parts long grain white rice for this congee. Red rice is healthier because it is unpolished and still has the outer bran layer. Therefore, aside from the natural nutrients that the rice has, it is also rich in fiber and protein. However, I was afraid my kids are not used to the texture and "graininess" of the red rice, so I had to mix them up with the white rice first. Later on, I plan to increase the red rice ratio to the white rice.
1 C mixed rice, washed once
3 pcs prepared conpoys or dried scallops, with some juices/broth
1/3 K lean ground pork, marinated in 2 T soy sauce and 2 T cornflour
4 T cooking oil, preferably canola oil
3 slices ginger
4 T minced garlic
4 T light soy sauce
3 - 4 C water, depending on how thick you want your congee to be (more water, less thick)
salt and pepper to taste
chopped green onions for garnish
1. Heat up the oil in a pot or wok. Saute the ginger until light golden brown. Add the garlic. Stir fry until fragrant but not burnt.
2. Add the conpoy or dried scallops. Stir for a while. Add the marinated ground pork (including sauce). Stir for a while until the pork changes color. Add the rice. Add soy sauce. Mix everything up.
3. Add water. Bring to a boil, then simmer until rice is cooked (around 20 minutes).
4. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour into bowls, top with chopped green onions. Serve immediately.
Am sharing this steaming bowl of congee filled with the natural goodness of rice with Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by the one and only Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen. To see last week's delicious round-ups, please check out Joanna's Food.