Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Breakfast of champions Chinese style

The chill of fall is in the air, as well as way too much smog. My head feels like squirrels are nesting in it. Time for something more powerful than just coffee is called for.

Bring out the Fermented Rice and make a breakfast that warms even my toes and clears out the rodents in residence. 

This is a great meal to have whenever you're feeling out of sorts... coming down with a cold, chilled from the weather, hungover, depressed, or just in need of something particularly comforting. It's also the dish that so impressed me back in my Taipei student days. And it's fast and cheap. Do I need to go on?

Breakfast's ingredients
I will show you how to poach the eggs here, which is a nice way of making all of the diners happy. 

My husband likes his egg yolks hard (he says "done perfectly," I say "done to golf ball consistency"), while I love my barely cooked (he says "raw," I say "sensuous"). 

No need to fight at breakfast, though, since each person's eggs can be done separately. They then sit in their own bowls while you prepare the rest of the eggs and the fermented rice soup, and once you pour the steaming hot broth over them, they'll heat up again in a flash.

I won't go onto one of my tangents right now. I'm still pretty flush and happy from breakfast, so I'll make this simple. Just gather up the ingredients ahead of time and you'll have everything ready for when you need it. And it will be perfect every time.

My degree of perfection
Hot fermented rice soup with poached eggs and sticky rice cakes
Jiuniang niangao dan  酒釀年糕蛋
Serves 2 to 4

2 cups filtered water
4 fresh large organic eggs
Rock sugar or honey to taste
Large handful of fresh or vacuum-packed sliced sticky rice cakes (niangao pian)
1 cup Homemade Fermented Rice or store-bought fermented rice, plus more if needed
A few tablespoons of osmanthus blossom syrup (guihuajiang), optional 

Test the egg to see if it's done
1. Bring the water to a boil and then lower the heat to a bare simmer. Crack an egg into a small bowl, hold the bowl barely above the boiling water, and slip the egg into the water gently so that it more or less holds its shape. Use a spoon or silicon spatula to urge any wisps of egg white to curl back onto the egg. Crack another egg into the small bowl and slip it into the other side of the pan, again trying to keep it in a nice solid mass. 

2. Cook the egg to the desired degree of doneness. I like to fish the eggs out with a slotted spoon and press the yolk with a finger to see how hard or soft it is. Place the cooked eggs in one or two individual serving bowls and cook the rest of the eggs in the same way.

3. Add some sugar or honey to the water and toss in a handful (or two) of the sticky rice cakes. Stir in the fermented rice and taste the soup, adding more sugar or fermented rice if needed. Stir in the optional osmanthus blossom syrup. Bring the water to a boil and divide the soup and rice cakes among the bowls. Serve while very hot.

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