A few days ago, I wrote about congee as the “Asian equivalent of chicken noodle soup”. It’s a simple and comforting rice porridge which is great to eat, especially when you’re feeling the blahs.
Although it is often associated with illness, congee can be eaten any day or time of the year (some even eat it for breakfast). It can be quite plain to eat (remember, it’s supposed to be healthy!), so there are several types of fritters that can accompany the dish to make it more exciting. Here are just a few:
Dough sticks (yao jat gwei) – When made fresh, these deep fried sticks are crispy and great for either cutting into pieces and mixing directly into congee or for dipping straight into your congee like biscuits into coffee (side note: these are great for dipping into sweetened soybean milk too). According to my mom, these dough sticks have a tale behind them. It is about a royal servant that spread false accusations to the king about one of his royal advisors. Hearing this, the king ordered his advisor to be killed but the king eventually learned that the accusations were lies and was furious. The people were also outraged as the advisor was well loved by the community, so as punishment the king ordered this lying servant to be deep fried to death. Now, these dough sticks are representative of this hated servant…or perhaps a tale to instill fear into children from lying? It’s kind of a morbid association with these dough sticks, but putting the story aside they are delicious!
Ox-Tongue Pastry (auw lei so) – this is another fritter that goes well congee. It is a sweet crueller that is similar to the dough sticks, but is denser and made with sugar. Although there are no morbid tales associated with these (or at least, not to my knowledge), the translation “ox tongue” is in reference to the shape it resembles (no oxen harmed in the making). Weird but cute, no? It’s soft and slightly chewy and just the right balance of sweetness. I really enjoy eating these.
The last one, which I don’t have a picture of unfortunately, is a fritter called ham jeen bang. It translates roughly as “salty pan-fried bread” and looks similar to a circular and slightly puffy pita that is golden brown. It is hollow on the inside and sprinkled with sesame seeds on top. Although the first two are probably more popular, this is another alternative dipping accompaniment to your congee. Enjoy! 🙂