Shunde Tasty Tour ①: "Congee" in Shunde

2020-06-15

At midnight, I was lying on my hotel bed, half asleep and half awake when I suddenly felt that something was wrong, sat up and suddenly realized: this is Shunde, it should be curfew time now!

In Shunde, I live close to the Lunjiao district, famous for its white sugar cakes. When I first arrived, the taxi driver said a certain market was just a short distance away. "That area is where the locals eat their late night snacks." He told me. I now tried to remember that the name it mentioned was Yung Fung Market, and a search on the map showed that it was only 3km away. I was sleep-deprived and vaguely hungry, so I got dressed and went out to call a cab, and ten minutes later I had arrived at the In front of Yongfeng Market.

Late night boiling "no rice porridge".

Yongfeng Market is actually a very large farmers' market.

Looking in through the locked iron gate, the stalls lined up in a rectangular space will be separated into a vertical column. At this time no one inside the market early, but outside the door is very lively. Whenever night falls, the vacated parking lot is transformed into a square of stalls. A number of about 1.5 meters long on the grill, a variety of food is baked to zinging, smoke in the windless night sky, rising, and Unlike the North, which specializes in a variety of meats, here it's mostly seafood that's grilled, most of them still alive in containers by the oven, and the sign Handwritten with origin and name: Zhanjiang oysters, Zhongshan ghost-clawed snails, Jiangmen lai ur shrimp....

grilled oysters

I ordered half a dozen large oysters and a plate of roasted bell peppers with a dark brown tiger skin and sat at a seat facing the street while I ate. Through the smoke, you can see the city in front of you. The roasted sauce mixed with the fried garlic, and the thick oyster meat itself was soaked to the fullest. It slides down your throat. Beneath the confusing coating of sweet and soft bell peppers and rich sauce, there's a spicy aftertaste that sets you on fire.

Seafood is grilled at the stalls that disappear during the day, but it's cooked at the brightly lit restaurants just a block away.

Shunhe, Zhenji, Fengcheng Taste, Xingtan Fair and Liangzheng...this one, which specializes in raw congee hotpot, is located across the street from Yongfeng Market. The new Shishi Ryoji Road stands next to each other. At this time, each place is full, and this place must represent the highest standard of Shunde's raw congee.

I waited for a table at the "Heng Tan Fair and Hot" restaurant, though I don't know how to pronounce its name.

To enjoy the most authentic congee hotpot, it's important to follow the standard procedure that Shunde's inquiring minds have worked out: the freshest dishes are cooked first. The grilled grass carp slices are followed by the meat and pork, and the porridge is gradually enriched as the flavours of the ingredients change from light to heavy. Finally, the shredded green vegetables capture the essence of the congee.

It was a shame that I had to take a snippet of the above as I couldn't eat all that much at such a late hour. I took the owner's advice and ordered the popular hand-cut beef. At this point, it was being brought to every table, probably because it was about to run out, and a huge piece of whole meat was hastily pulled in by a man with a cart. The back kitchen....

The bright red beef, a small dish of tender ginger and a pot of porridge base, gurgling and tumbling on the all-over speckled alcohol stove, soon appeared in the Table. Also up was a red-skinned egg. "Beat the egg on the beef, scatter and mix well." The waiter instructs, the egg not only makes the beef more tender, but also adds colour to the porridge itself.

After stirring the porridge twice with a ladle, it was clear that the bottom of the pot was not as thick as the soup.

Beef, egg and rice porridge

Pick up a piece of beef that has been thoroughly mixed with the egg mixture and place it in the pan, watching as it rolls around in the porridge, darkening in color. Time it and aim to get it out of the pan at the perfect time. Because earlier or later will affect the texture of the meat. Observe the freshly pulled beef: it is covered with layers of solidified egg, then a glistening outer layer of porridge paste, which is quickly dipped in the The ingredients rolled around a bit, sort of after another third layer, and sent it to my mouth. The texture was unprecedented, and I could feel the crunchiness of the fungus. The perfect ratio of meat, gluten and fat, the coating of the egg, the penetration of the boiling rice syrup........ The taste. It was so delicious that you couldn't stop, and before you knew it, the bottom of the plate had been reached. As the congee rolled on, the bottom became thicker and thicker, and the bowl of beef congee with strands of egg blossoms was getting better and better.

Raw congee and morning wine

The Daliang River winds its way through downtown Shunde, and an early morning walk along the river is the best way to get a feel for local life. The summer sun drives people to the shaded areas early in the morning. Under the patches of trees are always the most popular, where activities, both active and passive, unfold: Tai Chi, Cantonese opera or there is always a large number of spectators, killers, or just plain old people. A difficult chess matchup....

Follow the path up the hill, stop at a high point, turn back in another direction to look at the scenery in front of you is not the same as the tall buildings, gray earthen walls, slanted roofs covered by brown-red tiles, there is a more flavorful traditional towers, although the area is very limited, but in the center of the city, it is rare to see such an ancient scene, but also rare to see.

Layer upon layer of roof tiles

The breakfast in Shunde is also wonderful, and you can feel the color and aroma on the signboards in front of the shops in the streets passing by the river: Lunjiao cake, steamed Sausage noodles, baked egg tarts, Chen village noodles... many of the small fronts specialize in a particular item, with little seating or only a window for take-out. Still, there are long lines at shops that do good business. Occasionally, when you pass by a teahouse, it must be crowded with people, with dim sum carts moving around, and patrons leisurely taking down their favorite" One cup and two pieces"....

All the way around, I was actually hungry already, but just because it looked so good, it led to an outbreak of selection difficulties, until I saw again It was only when I saw the sign for the porridge shop that I made up my mind. It seems that I hadn't had enough of the previous night, but I was drawn to the porridge again.

"The porridge shop only does business in the morning, once it's past nine, it's gone. Very few shops are open all day like we are." This is what the owner tells me as I walk into the Frederick Congee shop. The hands of the clock on the wall are now about to turn 9:00.

raw congee

The raw congee is not actually from Shunde, but from Chaoshan. However, in recent years, as it has flourished in Shunde, there are more and more shops making raw congee.

As a breakfast, the food is naturally known for its speed and convenience, although it is simpler and less complicated than hotpot, there are more options available. and deliciousness no less. Looking at the wooden menu on the wall, I ordered what I was going to eat. In front of the open stall at the window, three large aluminum pots thicken as they continue to roll, their insides caking. The owner increases or decreases the heat, adds in different ingredients, stirs, and removes the pot. Serve to the front. Compared to the porridge at the bottom of last night's pot, the porridge in this bowl is the main character, and you can feel the fullness from the carbon water as you spoon into it. There is no fishy taste in the pork, only the softness of the lungs, the crispness of the small intestine and the density of the liver.

When you come in, you'll find three trolley boxes in front of the shop, which turns out to be a family of three waiting in front of the door after eating to take a cab to the airport. But then remember that people come and go from the small front, not all of them are foreigners such as me and other hastily punching cards, but also leisurely locals, such as those sitting at the Mr. Huang in the corner. He eats raw rolled fish congee, often picking up a glass sip of wine. That's right, Shunde has the habit of "drinking morning wine", not only for the food variety of tea houses, raw rolled congee and morning wine in the local gourmets also look It's a perfect match. On the shelf behind him is a row of unsealed bottles of wine with the customer's name on them: Shiwan Yu Bingzhao, Hongli Brand Red Rice Wine, Jiujiang Double steaming. Both are locally produced rice wines, the majority of which have a pleasing red cap and logo.

"Like a young man's coffee, a cup of "morning wine" gives you energy for the day." Mr. Huang sees me paying attention to his wine, talks to me across the table, and shows me his wine, the bottle of which is boldly marked 30% abv. ...but he says this "low alcohol" is for the morning... But he said such "low alcohol" is suitable for the morning....

I declined Mr. Huang's offer to buy me a drink so that I wouldn't have to wear a big red face for the rest of the day. I suddenly remembered a certain Japanese drama in which the protagonist enjoys himself immensely every time he skips work to drink during the day. In Japan, drinking before sunset is considered a sin, and the protagonist conveys to the audience the satisfaction of breaking the taboo. In that case, what if he drinks in the morning? Wouldn't it be the ten worst. After silently finishing the bowl of pork congee, I wondered as I walked along if it would really taste better with a cup of raw congee with morning wine.

Milk elevates the porridge.

"What's the difference between milk and cow's milk?" In the Kampong Huan Kee Cow's Milk, a customer at the table next to mine asks the owner a question.

"'Milk', fresh buffalo milk, and 'cow's milk', the Shunt version of cheese." The owner, Ms. Huan, answered in simple words. To make it more intuitive, she grabbed samples, a bottle of fresh milk and a thin, translucent slice of cow's milk.

Sitting next to me, I was waiting for the signature double-skinned milk to be served. I happened to have just ordered a bottle of milk, which I drank in two gulps because of the heat of the walk and its sweet, silky flavor, and the bottle was still on the table. I had also just seen the milk in the Shunde Food Museum, but had never tasted it and didn't know what it tasted like.

The connection between milk and my street, Kampong Street, dates back to the Ming Dynasty. At that time, this was still a village in Kampong, where water and fields were available, and the villagers reared buffaloes for a living. Hundreds of years later, it is now part of the city, and the buffaloes are still raised here, but they have been driven to the mountains, far away from sight.

However, the milk from Jimbang has become popular again, thanks to a report in "Taste of Shunde" a few years ago. Those like Huanji, who have been doing the same thing for a long time, have turned into Internet shops. More neighbours have also seized the opportunity to return to their ancestral trade.

Milk stall

Around the fragrant Yu Xu Palace, the nearby dairy stores are conservatively estimated to be no less than 20, each beginning with the "Golden List". Most of them sell only three things: bottled fresh milk, double-skinned milk, and cow's milk, which can be used as a representative of Shunde handicrafts, namely the fat content. More than 8% of Shunde buffalo milk, the taste and easy to curdle is much higher than ordinary milk, it is an ideal material for desserts and cheeses such as double skin milk. ...the "Milk Cow's Milk" signs are all over this narrow alley.

The "Dairy Milk" signs are all over this narrow alleyway, and although there are cobwebs of wires overhead and a jumble of terraces, the walls on both sides are painted a bright, clean white, and the inhabitants sit in the cool beneath the luxuriant bougainvillea, with the occasional motorbike pulling out, like some small European village.

By the way, this place did have a brush with Europe centuries ago. The Italian missionaries who passed through here at that time felt sorry for the milk that was thrown away in the summer because of the lack of preservation methods, so they used the local ingredients to add the milk. The traditional Italian way of making mozzarella, a world-famous buffalo cheese. The missionaries taught the villagers the art, left the recipe behind and walked away, but the people of Shunde didn't buy it. They probably didn't like the Italian taste or, more likely, weren't happy with the short shelf life of the mozzarella. With a few improvements on the missionary's recipe, Shunde's cow's milk, known as "Oriental Cheese", was born.

After eating double-skinned milk at Huan Kee in Kam Pung Sheung Street, I walked down to the even lesser-known Nomination Lane. Earlier than the food-seeking tourists are the generations of local students who have been coming to these two streets before exams.

Ms. Chen, the owner of the buffalo milk shop in Ngau Koo Kampong, is making cow's milk. She ladles out the milk that has been heated over low heat on the stove into another container of vinegar, stirs and shakes it, and the milk, which has curdled into a solid mass, is quickly out and affixed to a round wooden mold with a handle. As she kept repeating the above steps, more and more of the thinly-pressed white discs were placed in the nearby basin of salt water, like a pool of water floating in the wind. The falling petals of a flower.

The scene reminded me of a cheese workshop I had visited in Naples, with almost the same techniques, but far less delicate and romantic. The bald men fished out whole buckets of mozzarella in huge stainless steel tanks and squeezed them into 100 grams of a ball in ice water. At the moment, Ms. Chen's hands, each slice of cheese is less than 4 grams, thin and translucent, with the same pattern and the "Kampung Milk" branding. Compared to mozzarella, which is kept refrigerated for 10 days, Shunde cow's milk immersed in a brine bottle can be stored for half a year at room temperature.

A simple milk with a simple taste

The comparison across the miles is still going on in my head, while I can't wait to buy and open a box to compare flavors quickly.

Perhaps thinking that I was tyrannical, Ms. Chen soared straight into Cantonese. She told me that because of the high salt content, cow's milk cannot be eaten straight from the cow, and that the best way to eat it is to soak it in porridge. Coincidentally, a pot of porridge had just been made on the stove. She came back and gave me a bowl of porridge, this time plain white porridge with grains of rice visible. I followed her instructions and put the cow's milk in my hand, the latter curling and shrinking in the hot porridge, melting completely. Stirring twice and scooping up a spoonful, the mouthful is a refreshing sweetness, mixed with saltiness, sweetness, and an ever-increasing creamy thickness on the finish. This is how a bowl of white congee slowly unfolds.

On a summer afternoon, an ordinary bowl of congee is transformed into a wonderful and unforgettable taste by a slice of Shunde cow's milk.


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