November 22, 2018

Rabbit Fish Congee 泥鯭粥

Rabbit Fish Congee 泥鯭粥

chinese, classic, congee, fish, Mottled spinefoot, Rabbit Fish, recipe, rice porridge, traditional, 果皮, 泥鯭粥, 褐藍子魚, jook
By Published: 2018-11-22
Here's a little something for comfort, guaranteed to hit the right spot, as the autumn weather turns chill, cool northern winds blowing tree leaves adrift.  This is a classic Cantonese type of congee, or rice porridge if you like, that infuses the wonderfully creamy soothing heat of rice porridge with the sweet tender meat of the rabbit fish.  You can, of course, use other fish but this particular combination is a classic dish that you can, if you're lucky, still find in some of the grand ol' Cantonese restaurants that carry on in traditional fashion.  Or, shucks, if you can't find it, try making it at home, trust me it's worth the effort!  Rabbit Fish Congee 泥鯭粥 is an easy enough dish to make at home, it just needs a bit of time to cook down the rice and soon you'll be slurping on a perfect dish of creamy fish congee, warming yourself from the tip top of your head right down to the bottom of your toes!

chinese, classic, congee, fish, Mottled spinefoot, Rabbit Fish, recipe, rice porridge, traditional, 果皮, 泥鯭粥, 褐藍子魚, jook

The rabbit fish, also known as the mottled spinefoot,  or 泥鯭 and 藍子魚,  is a small fish that ranges from about 4" to 6" with speckled slivery skin.  Though quite ordinary looking and small, it is however possessed of very sweet, firm yet still tender meat and thus the perfect fish for congee, imparting its sea sweetness to flavor the congee as well as providing a delicate, tasty fish snack along with the creamy rice porridge.  

The rabbit fish can be found at the wet markets in Hong Kong.  Recently we have stumbled upon and tried flash frozen rabbit fish and it was very good so look out in the frozen section of your market.  Have your wet market vendor clean and gut the fish for you.  When handling at home be careful of the fins, they are quite sharp.  This fish is also very, very tasty steamed, check out our classic Cantonese Steamed Rabbit Fish with Tangerine Peel 果皮蒸泥鯭 recipe.

chinese, classic, congee, fish, Mottled spinefoot, Rabbit Fish, recipe, rice porridge, traditional, 果皮, 泥鯭粥, 褐藍子魚, jook

The secret to this dish is that wonderful special ingredient of the Cantonese cooks, the dried mandarin peel, or 果皮.  The addition of dried mandarin peel is the perfect complement to the fish and imparts to the congee a slightly smoky citrus tang that lingers on your palate.

You can  make your own (see our tutorial) or buy it at wet markets, usually from the fruit vendors.  
Dried mandarin peel is also available prepackaged in Asian supermarkets.  The more aged the peel is the better the flavor.

To prepare soak in warm water until soft.  Use a small knife to scrape off the white pulp, then slice into slivers.  

chinese, classic, congee, fish, Mottled spinefoot, Rabbit Fish, recipe, rice porridge, traditional, 果皮, 泥鯭粥, 褐藍子魚, jook

You could just add the dried mandarin peel to this traditional congee but we decided to go one step further and raise up the flavor stakes.  The bowl on the right is our other flavor secret, the Chinese pickled mustard also known as Zha Cai, or 榨菜.  This preserved mustard is packed with a range of flavors, a little bit of spicy, a little bit of sour and salty.  Chop up a bit of it and drop it into congee or soups for that extra flavor kick.

Drop the dried mandarin peel and pickled mustard into a pot of rice and water and cook over low heat.  You'll want to keep one eye on the pot as cooking rice will have a tendency to boil up past the pot's sides and make a grand ol' mess of your stove.  Once the rice is cooked to the point where the grains are breaking up and the porridge is creamy the congee is done and all that remains is the slide your fish in for a brief poaching in the congee.  (Did you know that poaching fish makes for more tender and smooth cooked fish than steaming?)


Alrighty then, time to grab a deep bowl, scoop some creamy congee in and gently nestle the just cooked rabbit fish on top.  Sit yourself down and enjoy the heart and toes warming comfort of this classic Chinese Rabbit Fish Congee 泥鯭粥!

chinese, classic, congee, fish, Mottled spinefoot, Rabbit Fish, recipe, rice porridge, traditional, 果皮, 泥鯭粥, 褐藍子魚, jook


Rabbit Fish Congee 泥鯭粥
(makes approx 3 big bowls of congee.)  Prep time: Cooking time:

Ingredients 

1/2 cup uncooked rice
3 cups water, plus 2-3 cups water
3 rabbit fish, or any kind of small non oily firm white fleshed fish
1 piece dried tangerine peel, approx 2"
2 tbsp pickled mustard Zha Cai 榨菜, minced
3 tbsp spring onions, sliced to rounds

Directions:
Soak the dried tangerine peel in warm water until soft.  Scrape white pulp off and slice into slivers.  Clean and gut fish.

In small pot, throw in the rice, dried tangerine peel, pickled mustard and 3 cups water.  The water should fill no more than 1/3 of the pot.  Heat over medium high until boiling and turn down heat to gentle simmer for 45 mins at least until the rice grains break down and the porridge is thick and creamy.  Be sure to keep an eye on the pot when bringing to a boil as it will tend to boil over.  While cooking add additional water as necessary, one cup at a time, stirring occasionally.  Taste and add salt if necessary.

Slide the fish into congee and cook over low heat for 5 mins.  Remove fish onto a plate.  Ladle congee into bowls, place one fish per bowl, sprinkle spring onions over and serve hot, creamy and delicious!

Note:  If you're interested in fishing for your own rabbit fish in Hong Kong, check out our attempt to do just that here.


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