“Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.” ― Aristotle
Never had those words rang truer than the first time I made this recipe. While easy to make, in the sense that there are no culinary acrobats involved, the process is long and drawn out and requires careful planning and timing to make it work. But fear not, young Padawan, the results are worth it. I recommend starting the prep work for this on a Friday night. You can clean and marinate the pork and leave it to marinate overnight and it’ll be ready for you when you wake up the next day. While the soup is happily simmering for four hours, use that time to either curl up on the couch with a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy the heavenly smells coming from your kitchen. Or if so inclined, make some Sichuan Pickled Cucumbers to accompany the congee when ready.
(Yields 6-8 servings)
- 3 pounds pork feet (trotters), rinsed thoroughly and drained
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 4½ quarts water
- 1 small ginger, about 2 inches, sliced very thinly
- 2×4 inch piece dried kombu (edible kelp)
- 1/4 cup bonito flakes, packed loosely
- 1 cup uncooked rice
- Salt and pepper to tast
- 2 pieces dried scallop, or 2 pieces dried cuttlefish, or 1 piece dried conch (optional; see notes below)
OPTIONAL: Recommended Toppings
- pork floss
- Chinese sausage, chopped finely
- scallions, sliced diagonally
- Rub the pork feet in 1 tablespoon of salt and marinate for at least 6 hours, ideally overnight, in the refrigerator.
- Put the marinated pork bones in a large pot with 4½ quarts of water, and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes. Skim off any foam with a spoon or a fine-meshed strainer, and discard.
- Next add the ginger, dried kombu, bonito flakes, dried squid/conch/dried scallops (if using), cover the pot loosely, and turn the heat down to a simmer. Let the soup simmer for 4 hours.
- Set a timer for yourself to go off in 3.5 hours after your soup started simmering. When the timer goes off, soak the uncooked rice for 30 minutes.
- Aftr 4 hours of slow and gentle simmering, take a small fine strainer and remove the kelp and bonito flakes. Discard.
- Taste the soup and re-season with salt if needed. Add the soaked rice and simmer for another hour.
- At this point, give your congee another taste, and add additional salt to taste. Ladle the congee into small bowls, and serve with choice of toppings.
- Using pork feet yields a thicker and fattier soup and will solidify once it gets cold. The bones in the trotter will also come loose and you will find small pieces in your congee. If this bothers you, you can take out the pork before putting the rice in. You will however miss out on the pleasure of having melt in your mouth pork meat and fat, but there will be no bones, so choose accordingly.
- If you want a thinner and clearer both without sacrificing the taste and richness of the pork, use bony parts like the neck and back. Have the butcher cut the bones in smaller pieces, about 2-3 inches.
- Dried seafood like conch, cuttlefish, and scallops will impart a rich umami to the soup, and while lack of it is not a total recipe killer, the soup will lose that extra oomph that makes it extra savory. You should be able to find these in any Asian store, and they would be in the same section as the bonito flakes and kombu.