3 June 2011

Congee Mk 3 - split-pea and red-braised partridge

I've made congee a couple of times before. I love the idea of it: a bland starchy base  topped up with pleasingly strong toppings. My recent discovery of the superb Food and Drink Chengdu lead to the inevitable trawl through the archive and a hoarding of tasty looking dishes. One that took my fancy was a rice and pea soup, a liquid congee type mixture of rice and split-peas.


I've had a couple of partridges in the freezer for a long time. And there in, perhaps, lies the problem. Emboldened by a recent red-braised pork dish which was a wonder of sweet and spice I thought I'd try the same treatment on the aged partridge.

  • rice and split-peas
  • meat (try fatty pork, or chicken?)
  • sugar, star anise, dried chilli, cinnamon, chilli oil, Shaoxing wine
  • pickled vegetables

Start the congee - put the rice and split-peas in plenty of water in a ratio of 3:1. Boil away until you get a soupy texture. It'll take a good hour.

For the red braise I'd recommend not using partridge, at least not long-frozen ones. Perhaps this is a lesson in freezer stock-monitoring. Try fatty pork - belly or spare rib chops are ideal.

Heat some oil and add a couple of teaspoons of sugar. Melt. It will go liquid and brown. Splosh in a few good shakes of Shaoxing cooking wine (dry sherry is often suggested in lieu of it should you be lacking) and stir. Chuck in a star anise, a few dried chillies and a stick of cinnamon. Add the meat and top up with water. Simmer for forty minutes and when nearly ready reduce the liquid a bit.

When the congee is ready put a portion of meat on top, spoon over some braising sauce, top with chilli oil and add a little preserved vegetable.


Good in theory, this dish could come to life with some nicely braised tender meat. As it was, the partridge was dry, stringy, musky and rather tough. The legs were especially unappetising; borderline inedible in fact. In the end I shredded the breast meat and stirred it into the mixture.

It's also possible that I don't really like partridge that much. I might loose food-cred points but I'm not sure that fiddly, muddy tasting, micro-fowl are the way forward in life.

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