The Congee Revolution: Oatmeal Toppings of the Diaspora

Thursday, May 10, 2018

One of my many dream alternative careers is to open an Asian-inspired oatmeal cafe. My favorite breakfast growing up was congee, which is a rice porridge. There used to be this old-school joint in Fremont that always had dirty water glasses (the translucent brown kind), but the most amazing congee with Chinese donuts, which are like a savory, puffy churro. I also remember my cousin’s grandfather making really soupy congee with fat golden chunks of yam, and though it’s a pretty basic recipe (literally water, rice, and yam), his was my favorite and I never liked my mom’s as much (lol sorry). Once I moved out, my dad’s tradition whenever I visited home was to pick up a tub of preserved century egg congee from Ranch 99 for breakfast.

In college, I really missed my weekend congee ritual, so I started buying plain oatmeal and adding my favorite toppings - a poached egg, furikake, dried pork flakes, etc. I actually liked it better than congee, because it’s so much thicker and you don’t get random mouthfuls of starchy water. I then invested in the love of my life, a Crock Pot, which allowed me to make giant batches of steel-cut oatmeal cooked in chicken stock or almond milk.

Anyways, the Asian-inspired oatmeal cafe is a far-off dream, but it’s a dearly cherished one and I think about it often. Below, my envisioned menu with my tried-and-true recipes and toppings combinations, which I’ve also named after Taiwanese (and one Korean) phrases, because of course. If any venture capitalists or actual chefs see potential in this, though, hit me up.

The Mei Mei (8 oz)
The Ayi (12 oz)
The Amma (16 oz)

Signature Bowls

The Taipei
Oatmeal cooked in chicken broth with a poached or fried egg, pork sung, scallions, soy sauce, toasted sesame seeds, and drizzled with sesame oil. Option to add salted preserved egg.

The Little Okinawa
Oatmeal cooked in chicken broth with a poached egg, bonito flakes, salmon fish sung, shredded dried seaweed, dried shrimp, furikake. Option to add shredded smoked salmon flakes or uni.

The Gugimsua
Oatmeal cooked in chicken broth with shredded chicken, scallion, sliced Chinese sausage, ginger, and chili oil. Drizzled with sesame oil and bacon. Option to add salted preserved egg.

The A Gong Beh Zu Giam
Oatmeal cooked in chicken broth with minced pork, fried garlic, scallions, roasted garlic, soy sauce, chili oil, and spicy bean paste. Drizzled with sesame oil. Option to add salted preserved egg.

The Sainai
Oatmeal slow-cooked with black sugar, goji berries, dried jujubes, dried longan, and barley. Topped with toasted sliced almonds.

The Onglai
Oatmeal slow-cooked with rock sugar, ginger, and diced fresh pineapple. Topped with toasted walnuts.

The Hal-abeoji
Oatmeal slow-cooked with diced Korean pears, ginger, star anise, cinnamon, rock sugar, and dried jujubes. Topped with toasted pine nuts.

The Obasan
Oatmeal slow-cooked with black sugar and diced purple yams. Seasonally substituted with kabocha squash. Option to add pork sung.

The Ti O O
Oatmeal slow-cooked and baked with black sesame mochi and black sesame paste. Topped with fresh black sesame cream.

From my experience, any combination thrown into a crock pot has a fairly high success rate. I use a 1:4 oats to liquid ratio and cook on low for eight hours. I prefer steel-cut oats over rolled oats for a bouncier texture, and certainly over instant or quick cook oats. The sweet recipes can also be modified (less moisture, more raw eggs) for baked oatmeal bars. I like to bake them in muffin tins so they come out real cute, like flourless muffins. Finally, the chicken broth can be substituted for vegetable broth or water, or even bone broth. Let me know if you try any of these, or if you have any other recipes to recommend (oatmeal, crock pot, or otherwise).

Do all things with great love.


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