Recently I’ve been reading a fiction I dug up from the back of my bookshelf, titled “The Namesake” by a Pulitzer-winning Indian American author. The story follows the life of the Ganguli family who immigrated from Calcutta to Boston, the mother’s struggle with adjusting to an isolated life in Cambridge with her newly wed arranged marriage husband. Then the story turns to their son, who was born and raised in Boston. The boy, Gogol, spends much of his early childhood and young adult life trying to leave his Indian heritage behind in order to forge his own identity.
I found myself resonating with many things that Gogol describes in the book about his Indian parents. For instance, he felt ashamed of their perpetual fear of disaster. They would nag about locking the front doors and not leaving their car on the street so that it wouldn’t have a chance to get scratched. Traveling for vacation often felt like a stressful chore rather than a relaxing break when Gogol’s father constantly checks everyone’s passports and visas and documents at the airport for fear of losing something. He also writes of the obligatory annual trips back to Calcutta, filling up their 5 giant suitcases with gifts for every relative and smuggling back freeze-dry foods and Indian spices to America. The most endearing detail was when the author describes how the Gangulis entertain their guests and how the parents would be bouncing between the kitchen and the dining table, frying up more samosas the entire time, never resting a moment to simply sit with their guests at the dining table. I can find so much similarities in my own first generation immigrant parents.
In the book, Gogol transforms from a quietly rebellious young man to someone who began to look into his own Indian heritage for identity after his father passes away, wanting to understand what types of things mattered the most to his dear father. In a similar way, I underwent a transformation of sorts between high school and adulthood, slowly comprehending the idiosyncrasies of my parents and finding myself inching closer towards their way of life in some aspects. Nowadays, I also save up plastic bags from my grocery trips in a box under the sink. I also never leave any belongings in my car while parked for fear of break-in. I am more fascinated with the intricacies of traditional Chinese cuisine. I suppose if life is a progression of one’s evolution, I am surely making some progress.
Today’s recipe that I want to share is also a traditional Chinese dish. Though my family personally never made this for breakfast, preserved duck egg and pork congee is a popular Cantonese congee that is eaten for breakfast and brunch. Some of you might have heard of preserved duck eggs also as “century eggs”. These eggs are preserved in a mixture of clay, ash, salt and quicklime for several months, and the yolk becomes dark green due to hydrogen sulfide and ammonia, and in the process produces a strong flavor. You can eat it straight up as a side dish or throw it in porridge like I did.
Preserved Duck Egg and Shredded Pork Congee
- 3 preserved duck eggs (found in any Asian supermarket)
- 2 cups of rice, uncooked
- 1/2 pound of ground pork
- 1 tbsp ginger powder
- 1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
- sliced green onions, for garnish
- 2 tbsp salt
Wash the rice and soak it in 3-4 times as much water as rice, for 1 hour. Bring the rice to a boil and then simmer on low heat for 40 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent rice from sticking to the bottom.
Meanwhile, add ginger and Shaoxing wine to the ground pork and saute in a skillet until mostly cooked. Cut the eggs into small chunks and set aside.
Add the eggs to the congee and simmer for another 10 minutes. Add cooked pork to the congee and stir the mixture, simmer for another 5 minutes. Add salt to taste. Turn off the heat and top the congee with green onions for garnish.