I’ve made no bones about my love of Vietnamese Street Food, but my thoughts on Asian porridge tend to be a lot less favorable.
Actually event names bothers me, porridge is something I remember eating and not enjoying as a kid. When I first came to China I was introduced to congee. What is congee? Congee is rice mixed with water AKA porridge. It is popular as a breakfast in many Asian countries and I have to say singularly my least favorite food on the planet. Why os congee so bad? Essentially it’s just really boring….
And then I discovered duck congee in Vietnam.
Duck porridge AKA cháo vịt in Vietnamese – duck rice congee, and in this case braised duck.
I got to try this with a Vietnamese friend on my last trip to Saigon. On being told I was to be served “duck porridge” my initial thought was that I was going to be presented with a very plane congee dish that merely had a few bits of duck thrown in for good measure.
I was to be somewhat surprised…
I like duck! Far from being given a few bits of many dried duck the chef grabbed a big old braised duck hanging in the window and then presented it to us on a platter. I didn’t wait for the congee but sloughed straight into the meat (I was hungry). Duck was big firm pass in my mind!
This was the main shocker. Most congee I have had is thick and completely flavourless. Saigon congee, or in this restaurant anyway the congee was much more soupy and instead of the watery boring blandness had an almost meaty undertone to it. Me being me I threw in some spring onions and some spicy Vietnamese sauce until it fit my palate perfectly.
I’ll get back the duck. The main flavorings of the duck seemed the be essence of soy sauce. I personally love duck skin, but am not keen on crispy duck skin. In my mind the greasy skin went perfectly with the certainly not overdone meat of the duck.
But how did it mix? Peeling off skin and meat and throwing it into the duck porridge genuinely created an almost perfect dish. Congee isn’t usually flavorsome, but with water and rice it is by very definition filling. Combine that with some fine duck meat and you will not go wanting.
I wouldn’t say I am now a congee convert, but if I was to be offered duck porridge in Vietnam again, I would not balk at the prospect by any means!