Primary Ingredient(s): Rice, Shrimp, Mushrooms
Type of Dish: soup/porridge
Method of Preparation: Slow Simmer
In my travels, and amongst the 3-dozen-some Dim Sum places I have been to in my life time (which is, effectively, a sample size of near zero), I have only been offered congee once by a trolley that was rolling around the restaurant.
This is not to say that congee is rare in a dim sum restaurant, but rather it is one that must be ordered. Congee is likely on the menu, it’s just that most people who are bedazzled by the trolley carts do not realize that there are still foods that one can order.
At its core, congee is rice porridge, left to cook overnight to become a thick soup. But to state that this is all congee is does it a disservice, for there are as many different takes on the soup as there are ingredients that one can put into it. Much like regular rice, congee works best as a medium to which other flavors are added.
For the example above? There’s clearly cabbage, green onions, and mushrooms, and beneath the surface, is a bit of shrimp. This is what was delivered to me when I asked, and by itself, it makes a good enough meal. But then I could have added chili oil, soy sauce, or red vinegar (all options on my table). This is not only acceptable, but encouraged. And these additions change the dish from something good to something even better.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of variations of this dish, including the use of grains other than rice to make the base soup. I’ve even been offered a dish by a friend who had crumbled potato chips on top of the soup. If you’ve never had congee, seek one out. It’s a dish worth exploring.