Strangely the first time when it really kicked home just how different Hong Kong was when I was shopping in the homewares department of their John Lewis equivalent (Wing On). Apart from the fact that you can buy rafts of carved mammoth tusks it was the rice cookers that got me. This was because they all had switches, you could either cook “rice” or “congee”.
Now before coming to Hong Kong I knew what congee was but had never tried it and I thoroughly underestimated how important it was culturally and culinarily. Congee is Hong Kong’s porridge, ceral and bacon sandwich combined. Basically it is over boiled rice which then breaks down and into which you load fatty or fishy goodness for flavour.
Sang Kee in Sheung Wan is one of the places which is renouned for it so early one morning, far too early for rice (or so I thought) I went there. Sang Kee is not fancy. It really is the Cantonese equivalent of any breakfast joint you get anywhere around the world. Tiredness, hatred of the fact you have to work and the need for food to somehow prepare you for the day. I ordered congee with meat balls. What you are meant to do I found out later is take the meat balls from the rice and dip them in the sauce too cool them down. I just dunked it all together and got going.
Congee for me was a slow and soothing experience. It is not dissimilar to eating porridge but the sweetness of sugar is replaced with fatty meats or fish. There are more similarities than I realised between British breakfast habits – kippers, bacon or sausage sandwiches – and Cantonese ones. For an American or (proper) European I think the experience might be stranger. As I live right by Sang Kee I haven’t ventured further so I can’t speak to whether or it is great congee or just good. I have a sneaking suspicion that it is rather special though.
So congee yes, Sang Kee very much yes.
Price – I don’t remember, I paid out of *very* small change. It costs less than a coke in most restaurants.