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Chinatown Hangover Cure at Congee Village

Congee Village
100 Allen St
New York, NY 10002

 

If you are an American Born Chinese and grew up eating in Chinese restaurants in Chinatown, Congee Village will make you nostalgic for your childhood.  Congee Village is the quintessential Chinatown restaurant.  It is Cantonese (early Chinese immigrants were mostly Cantonese so most Chinatowns now are dominated by a Cantonese population), uses huge gold wallpaper adorned with dragons and phoenixes, has plenty of large, round table seating, and has an all male wait staff that wears black slacks, white shirts, and little black vests.  If you’re hungover, Congee Village will provide the hearty dishes and watered down tea to make things right again.  I happened to be both an ABC and hungover on a Sunday afternoon (well, I’m always an ABC) and so Congee Village was doubly perfect for me.

I seriously woke up, with a headache, craving Salted Fish and Diced Chicken Fried Rice ($9.50).  If you’ve never had it, you’d think I was weird.  But if you have, you’d completely understand.  I needed the oily goodness of second-day jasmine rice fried up with chicken, peas, scallions, and most of all, salted fish.  Good fried rice is always made with second-day rice because the extra day in the fridge* lets the rice dry out.  Fried rice always involves some sort of liquid (oil, some kind of sauce, or cooking wine) and if you start out with a plump batch of rice, the additional liquid will just make your rice mushy.  If you can’t fry each individual grain of rice, you know you have a problem.  The chicken is actually kind of useless in my opinion and I’d be completely okay leaving it out… but it is part of the traditional style of this canto dish so Congee Village leaves it in.  Chicken is very difficult to make well… a couple seconds too long on the stove and you have a dry stringy wok of diced chicken.  I do love the peas but according to T.W., they are not actually part of the traditional dish.  Americans eat a lot of peas, so one day, someone just decided to add them to every fried rice possible.  It adds color and I think it tastes great.  It gives a bit of sweetness to counter the salty fish… my favorite part of the dish.  Yes, salted fish smells kind of like … feet … but it tastes like salt on crack.  There isn’t a whole lot of it in the rice, which makes it all that much more special.  Tiny pieces of the fish are sprinkled throughout just to give you enough to make you yearn for more.  Serious umami factor here.

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