I can’t believe that Sarah Swan from 100 Mile Table café in Byron Bay let this one out of the bag. Her Chicken and Ginger Congee, has legendary status. I’ve said it before: that congee is my favourite breakfast in Byron Bay. If it was to slip off the menu for any reason there would be much ado from the congee lovers of the Shire and me. But now she’s told us how to make our own! Thanks for that, Swannie. I’ve tried the recipe a couple of times, and it’s congee-licious. But, you know what? I still prefer the 100 Mile Table rendition to my own. It’s partly about the ritual of having the warming bowl of breakfast goodness prepared and served by someone else and it’s partly because I’m convinced the kitchen at 100 Mile Table uses some sort of congee wizardry that I’ll never be able to emulate.
I first tasted congee while on holiday in Bali about 15 years ago where it is called Bubur Ayam. I was poorly at the time, struck down by that water borne lurgy known as Bali belly. At the breakfast table in our Ubud hotel, I wasn’t especially hungry, but I wanted to eat something simple and delicate to feel nourished and soothed after an uncomfortable night. I ordered the Bubur Ayam, described on the menu as ‘chicken rice porridge’. It was perfectly humble, gentle and warming – an absolute comfort and panacea to my delicate belly.
In fact, the Bubur Ayam was so good that I ordered it every day for the rest of our holiday. I went in search of a recipe as well. I ended up purchasing Janet de Neefe’s auto-biographical cook book ‘Fragrant Rice’ which included a simple Bubur Ayam or ‘Chicken Porridge’ recipe. Reading the introduction preceding Janet’s recipe, I learned that the Balinese in fact eat Bubur Ayam when sick to soothe a delicate tummy, fight colds and flu and to generally feel better. I was onto something!
But you don’t need to be poorly to enjoy this Chicken and Ginger Congee recipe. Although, the soothing ginger and comforting nature of the dish do work wonders. Sarah’s version is a balanced blend of savoury Asian flavour, creamy rice and gently poached chicken. It’s topped with thinly sliced green shallots for freshness and crispy fried eschallots to add texture and richness. The congee is great served with some deeply intense chill sauce for heat and, if you are wanting to gild the lily, add a fried egg on top Nasi Goreng style
‘Big ups’ to Swannie for sharing her Chicken and Ginger Congee recipe in the latest edition of the Byron Bay Cookbook: a taste of the region published by Remy Tancred Nelly Le Comte. It’s a great recipe to make for a Winter breakfast in place of oats. You can make a batch and gently reheat it the next day or two for ‘instant porridge’ and a feel good breakfast.