Miso congee w/ crispy scallion oil and cream
” It’s an agent of both calmness and arousal, a stimulating congee. “
Around this time of the year with its cold crisp air, with it carrying a smell of memory that I can’t seem to grapple, I am loosened and adrift. I feel like anchoring to a sleeved cup of coffee with both hands, and wander aimlessly on the street decorated with relentless sparkles. Like an old lady who has lost something but couldn’t remember what. My fingertips are toasty, the coffee sleeve too thin… I’m a child to be fetched.
This, of course, could be seasonal sentimentality talking. But also possibly early, really early onset alzheimer. Both equally dangerous.
I’ve been meaning to cook something that satisfies my overindulged melancholy, something to be eaten after I sing me a river to skate away on and stare out the window for no apparent reasons. Something to part from the perception that congee or porridge – still in my mind, the perfect comfort food – is bland and monochromatic, but at the same time celebrates the fact that it is nourishing, consoling, and the food-equivalent of very expensive therapists.
I started with a very clean, water-based miso broth as the foundation of a soothing but flavorful congee, then dribbled on pockets of excitements from crispy scallions and garlic chips fried in olive oil, quick-pickled shallots and lightly whipped heavy cream. The miso congee is thick, enwrapping, but appropriately lubricated by the luscious mouthfeel of the herbaceous olive oil and the cool sweetness of cream, with a cadence of brightness from the crisped scallions and garlic, tangy shallots and the occasional burst of pain from finely minced pickled bird’s eye chilis. It’s an agent of both calmness and arousal, a stimulating congee. Break a soft-boiled egg on top and it’s a legit meal.
It’s the kind of stuff I crave around this time. And I suspect you, too.
- 5 cups water
- 1 1/2 tbsp katsuobushi/bonito powder (see note *)
- 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp medium or dark miso paste
- 2 tsp light brown sugar
- 2 tsp fish sauce
- 1/8 tsp curry powder
- 1 1/2 cup cooked short grain rice, plus 1/2 cup to finish
- 4 small or 3 large scallions
- 2 cloves of garlic, thinly shaved
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp ground white pepper
- 1 shallot, thinly siced
- 1 1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
- 3/4 tsp light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- pickled chilis, finely diced (recipe available in The Art of Escapism Cooking)
- soft boiled eggs to serve
- MAKE MISO CONGEE: In a large pot, bring water to a simmer then whisk in the katsuobushi powder, miso paste, light brown sugar, fish sauce and curry powder until the paste is evenly dissolved. If your miso paste is grainy and coarse, melt it into the water through a fine strainer and discard the solids. If your miso paste is on the pale side, you can add ground sweet paprika to add a bit of reddish hue. Every miso paste may have different salt level, so adjust if needed.
- Add 1 1/2 cup cooked short grain rice (it may seems very little but the rice will expand), and continue to simmer, stirring frequently, until the rice is mostly broken down and softened, about 30~35 minutes. You can use the back of a ladle to press on the rice against the side of the pot to speed it up a bit, but this part mostly requires some patience. Then at the end, add the last 1/2 cup rice to add a bit of texture.
- MAKE CRISPY SCALLION OIL AND OTHER TOPPINGS: Meanwhile, use either a multi-blades scallion cutter or a sharp knife, cut the scallions into thin strips. No need to be anal about it. Place the scallions into a small pot along with shaved garlics, extra virgin olive oil and sea salt. Place over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the garlics have turned blonde yellow (no darker), then immediately transfer into another bowl. The garlic and scallion will continue to darken and crisp up in the residual heat. Stir in ground black and white pepper, and set aside until needed.
- Combine thinly sliced shallot, rice vinegar and light brown sugar in a small bowl, and let pickle for 10 minutes. Whisk the heavy cream until lightly foamy, then set aside until needed.
- TO SERVE: Serve the miso congee with crispy scallion oil and cream drizzled on top. Scatter the pickled shallot and chilis around (or you can use capers or store-bought pickled chilis), then dust ground black pepper on top. Serve immediately.
* Katsuobushi or bonito flake is dried, fermented and smoked skipjack tuna. It is a very common Japanese ingredient, quintessential in making miso soup, that can be found in most Asian supermarkets and online. Grinding it in a spice-grinder into powder form saves me the step of straining the flakes (which has a woody mouth feel) from the soup.
RobDecember 16, 2019 at 11:04 PM
I still want a signed copy of your cookbook how do I get one???? You do know Xmas is comming and nothing better than a new cookbook for ME!!!
RobDecember 16, 2019 at 11:07 PM
Oh and the congee look as usual AMAZING and I am drooling thinking about it and imagining the flavor combo and plays with texture! thanks for the inspirations!
ToriDecember 17, 2019 at 12:36 AM
Funnily enough, I made congee for dinner last night and used some of the miso ramen broth from your cookbook that I had in the freezer as a base. Topped with your chili oil from the book (my new favorite). Love the idea of adding some cream for richness.
AnkasanDecember 17, 2019 at 4:28 AM
How many servings is this? I’m thinking two?
mandy@ladyandpupsDecember 17, 2019 at 12:14 PM
Ankasan, for meal size I would say two. But it makes about 4 small bowls in the photo.
EhaDecember 17, 2019 at 10:07 AM
For decades eating congee for me was a sign of delight that I was back in Singapore or other points north . . . traditionally my first meal landing from Australia. : Learned to make it back home tho’ it never gave me such a thrill . . . Your miso version with the shallot oil has made my eyes and nose and taste buds prick up enough to want to try – thanks @
roseDecember 19, 2019 at 10:52 AM
This looks soo comforting and I will try it asap. But I will use a technique for “20 min congee” I found online in which rice is soaked, drained, then frozen overnight, which breaks it down in such a way that you get perfect congee in 20 mins.
PS: I just finished reading your cook book front to back like a novel and it was so goood! Loved everything and can not wait to try out a bunch of recipes – though I am vegan, (thank you for that first vegan recipe sub in the book – felt like it was just for me!), so I will convert them as is my norm. Your flavor and techniques are stable enough to withstand the conversion, to my taste anyway!
mandy@ladyandpupsDecember 19, 2019 at 1:09 PM
Rose, thanks so much!
ScarlettJanuary 4, 2020 at 3:22 PM
This was posted on my birthday, so I made it to treat myself. (Yes, I ate it all by myself. Probably shouldn’t have, but I don’t care.) I did not really measure the miso, and things came out slightly too salty, but that’s on me. The scallion oil was fantastic. I didn’t have cream, so I used a rich, full-fat yogurt, and if you’re like me and you love acidity, that may be right up your alley, but some may find it too much with the pickled shallots (which you should NOT skip! Very important to cut through all that rice and salt and fat!) The bonito was a good addition; I only had it in the form of prepped dashi base, which may also have contributed to the over-saltiness of my result, but I shall have to get some plain bonito because the fishy funk added a new dimension that I really liked.
Well done. I’ve always thought of congee as a sick-day dish, or maybe an afterthought-meal of sorts, a vehicle for old rice or leftovers. But this really elevated it to new heights.
Clara MeiFebruary 12, 2020 at 10:37 AM
I just made this and it was the best of comfort food. Thank you for the recipe!
gabyJune 14, 2020 at 1:05 AM
Can’t wait to try this recipe! Is it possible to substitute curry roux for the curry powder?
AngelaJuly 7, 2021 at 1:03 PM
This congee was phenomenal taste and texture-wise. Thank you for helping to brighten up cold winter nights with bowls of pure comfort and delight.
AnnaMay 5, 2022 at 7:18 PM
This looks like my typical comfort food! Really want to try and make these! Thanks for the recipe!
Idle BreakoutApril 10, 2023 at 4:37 PM