One of my favourite breakfasts that I never have time to make is congee with preserved vegetable omelette. Congee gets a bad rep - oft compared to wallpaper paste, the whole point of it is to be a soft, bland foil against punchy flavours. It's an ideal meal for me, as no one bite is the same; instead, you can tailor each mouthful with your condiments.
The key to a successful congee breakfast is flavour and texture contrasts. A bit of crunch here and there is essential so that you don't feel like a geriatric gumming down your meal. The crunch of spring onions is perfect, and salted roasted peanuts or fried dough stick are ideal too. Then comes the condiments - short, sharp bursts to flavour each mouthful. This omelette encompasses both texture and flavour; a little creamy, a little crunchy, slightly crispy. Bits are ripped off with chopsticks, dipped in the congee and eaten with a sprinkling of spring onion.
For alternating mouthfuls, I favour fermented white tofu in chilli oil. You can buy this at your local Chinese supermarket - greyish squares float in the chilli oil, not to be confused with red fermented tofu which is used for cooking with. This stuff packs some serious umami - I only needed half a square for my whole bowl. It's hard to describe the flavour - deeply savoury, quite spicy, a bit of fermenty-ness. (That's a word, ok?)
You may have a favourite way of cooking congee - some prefer it creamy and thick, others thin and broth-like. I'm in between; semi-thick, but with the rice grains still intact. This is how I made mine.
Preserved Vegetable Omelette
1 heaped tbsp Tianjin preserved vegetable (or chai poh, preserved turnip)
2 tbsp milk
1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
1 fat clove of garlic, minced
A pinch of white pepper
1 tbsp cooking oil
Rinse the preserved vegetable in plenty of water, 3 times. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs together with the rice wine and the white pepper and milk.
Drain the preserved veg and cook on a high heat without the oil so that the moisture evaporates. Add the oil, turn the heat down to medium and add the garlic, cooking until fragrant. Turn the heat up and add the eggs immediately - they should bubble and fluff upon hitting the wok. Cook for a couple of minutes, then flip into half and turn over, cooking until slightly crisp on the outside and set within.
To make the congee:
90gr jasmine rice (basmati also works)
Rinse the rice a couple of times, swirling the grains with your hands and discarding the water. Place rice in a large saucepan with water, and bring to the boil. Turn down to a medium heat and simmer until the water turns starchy and the rice is swollen and cooked, roughly around 15 mins. For a smoother, creamier congee, cook for a little longer on a lower heat and stir it often so that the rice grains break down.
Serve with bowls of condiments - fermented tofu, chopped spring onions, chopped coriander, chilli oil, chopped up chillis in fish sauce, pickled vegetables, roasted peanuts, chopped century egg, fish balls... the list is pretty endless.