When I was a kid the old man would return from Chinatown laden with hong bao, lucky red shopping bags. Usually these were filled with dried mushrooms, superior soy sauce and other ingredients. There treats were for me and him—lo mai gai, packets of sticky rice—and treats of a sort for my Mom, notably congee.
Until very recently I’d never understood her fascination with rice gruel, but now that my stomach has taken a delicate turn, I’m becoming quite the congeessieur. My mother’s tastes ran toward the bland and watery while I prefer a gussied up, thicker version. One of my favorites is an Indonesian variety—bubur ayam—that’s super thick and topped with fried chicken. It’s available on Tuesdays at Indo Java Grocery and one of the best bowls around can be had this Saturday’s Indonesian food festival in Elmhurst.
I’m still on the hunt for a properly thick Cantonese congee; the best I’ve found is at Red Bowl Noodle Shop in downtown Flushing, which offers a great breakfast buffet. Coming in second is the congee at E Noodle House in New World Mall. The pork and preserved egg congee is good, but what really sets this place apart is one of the toppings. Instead of a cruller or you tiao, top your bowl with what I like to call Chinese fish chicharron. At $5.75 it costs almost as much as the porridge itself but the salty crispy crunchy sheets of su zha xian yu pi are worth every penny. I like to crumble some on tope and eat the others on the side.
So tell this budding congeessieur something, do you prefer thick or thin? And what’s your favorite topping/variety?
Indo Java, 8512 Queens Blvd, Elmhurst,718-779-2241
Noodle Village So Good, Stall No. 2, New World Mall Food Court , 136-20 Roosevelt Ave., Flushing
Red Bowl Noodle Shop, 40-52 Main St, Flushing, 718-353-7683