Before I started my food blog I'd don't think I'd ever HEARD of Congee - it certainly wasn't something that was on my "food radar" nor I was desperate to try it. To my defense I am the child of a European mum and an English dad. I spent high school locked away in a country town boarding school. There's not much Congee floating around in country Australia, nor in the food my parents served me up as a kid. And Miss Piggy only has so much tummy room. There are only so many meals in the day...Congee wasn't high on my priority list. After all I have a list longer than my arm of food I need to try before I loose my teeth and end up in a nursing home.
Fellow bloggers who are of a Chinese background are often talking about Congee - how delicious it is, how it cures all
ails, how it's the truest form of comfort food. All I knew was it looked like porridge and I HATE porridge so
there's no way I'm going to like Congee. No way at all. But I was happy
to give it a go - you don't know until you try it, right? My neighbour and fellow food blogger Ramen just happens to be a bit of a Congee aficionado and he took me
to his favourite local Congee joint in Parramatta, Sun Ming, to pop my
Sun Ming is your typical cheap and cheerful Chinese Restaurant - tiled floors, never-ending cups of jasmine tea, plastic basket with sauces and wotnot, functional tables and chairs that can be quickly wiped down before the next hungry customer takes a seat. And, of course the ubiquitous fish tanks lining the wall with sad looking fish looking...well, sad.
We try not to catch the eye of the mournful looking fish and get down to the business of ordering. Because this is my first Congee outing The Boy, VegeTARAian and I decided to share a Congee with King Prawns - none of us wanted to commit to an entire bowl of the stuff without having a taste of it first. Congee is best eaten with a side of Fried Dough which is dunked into the Congee. Fried Dough is seriously delicious on its own (I ate a pile of it before the Congee even arrived at the table). Dunked into Congee = perfection.
And the Congee? I LOVED it. It's warming, comforting, and perfect for the cold weather. It's simple, unassuming but so packed with flavour. There are slivers of ginger floating around in the bowl giving the Congee an unexpected "zing". I loved the plump king prawns and the crumbled wontons dusted across the top of the bowl. The dish is HUGE though - I would struggle to eat a bowl on my own...it is a dish best shared, which is comforting in itself.
Of course food bloggers cannot live on Congee along. The Boy orders a plate with Roast Pork and Char Sui Pork with some token Asian Greens on the side to stop any onset of sudden heart attacks. He's in heaven and very happy that I've "gone all free-range" so he doesn't have to share with me. It actually takes all of my willpower and morals not not snaffle some of his roast pork - it looks fantastic.
Ramen and his housemate D keep things simple with a classic Sweet and Sour Pork. They both seem really happy with their choice. The meat is really well cooked and the batter super crispy. I like that it doesn't have that weird pink colour that many Sweet and Sours seem to.
VegeTARAian and I share a Vegetable Hotpot which was AWESOME! The clay pot is packed with tofu puffs, Asian greens and mushrooms. It's hearty and warming - utterly delicious and I feel healthy eating it. In fact the whole meal leaves me feeling "good on the inside".
So the moral of the story? Don't turn your nose up at something until you've tried it Miss Piggy. Congee is awesome...just think of all the Congee eating years you've missed out on.
Sun Ming is at 125 Church Street, Parramatta. Call them on 9689 2178.