This pork and crab congee with XO sauce recipe comes courtesy of Australian chef Christine Manfield who shared it with us after I sampled her heavenly take on the Chinese rice porridge in Battambang of all places a couple of years ago.
It only took one spoonful of this sublime savoury rice porridge for my eyes to light up and for me to make a note to myself to ask, beg and plead if I had to for this pork and crab congee with XO sauce recipe.
It was in Cambodia’s riverside city of Battambang at Jaan Bai, the social enterprise restaurant launched in 2013 by Cambodian Children’s Trust’s Tara Winkler, with the support of Australian restaurateur John Fink (owner of chef Peter Gilmore’s Quay, Bennelong and Otto) and chef David Thompson (of Long Chim and formerly Nahm, Bangkok), where we’d gone behind the scenes to cover its opening for a slew of magazines.
Two years ago, another Australian chef, Christine Manfield, was in Battambang to cook for a special charity dinner at Jaan Bai to raise funds for the social enterprise restaurant’s youth empowerment scholarship fund. One of Australia’s most celebrated chefs, Christine whipped up a delicious five-course Asian menu in her signature style, which blew diners away.
While everything Christine cooked with the young Jaan Bai chefs was superb, the standout dish for me was her decadent rice porridge. I didn’t have to plead. Christine not only generously shared her divine pork and crab congee with XO sauce recipe with me, she shared it with the restaurant. It’s now on the Jaan Bai menu and is one of their most popular dishes. It’s sold out every time I’ve since attempted to order it.
Unfortunately it took Terence, the head cook in our household, another two years to make Christine’s congee recipe as we struggled to find XO sauce here in Cambodia and didn’t have any better luck on our Bangkok shopping trips.
When my old school friend Becky visited us last month after a Taiwan business trip, I asked nicely and she bought us a jar in Taipei – only to have it confiscated at the airport. Bek then picked us up a couple of jars of The Peninsula’s XO Chilli Sauce from Hong Kong Airport – and almost missed her flight doing so! Thank you, Becky! XX
It was well and truly worth the wait. Christine’s recipe, which we’ve published here with her kind permission, makes enough for eight servings of congee. Terence and I devoured the first two bowls for dinner then went back for seconds. We happily consumed another two portions for lunch the next day – that’s mine in the picture above – and I have to confess that I am guilty of polishing off the rest.
Make this pork and crab congee with XO sauce recipe and I guarantee that none will go to waste.
Pork and Crab Congee with XO Sauce Recipe by Chef Christine Manfield
Congee or rice porridge has long been a traditional Asian breakfast staple, although these days congee is eaten at any time of day, from brunch through lunch and dinner to a late night supper. A comfort food, congee is thought to have therapeutic properties and recommended when people are feeling ill in much the same way that chicken soup is prescribed. It’s also said to be a reliable hangover cure although I can’t say I’ve tested out that theory.
Thought to have originated in ancient India, where the Tamil peoples from Southern India and northeastern Sri Lanka called it kanji, these days we tend to associate congee with China, where every province has its own take on the rice porridge. Interestingly it’s only called congee in the coastal province of Guangdong and is known as báizhōu, zhōu and jūk in other parts of China.
Eaten right around Asia, congee goes by different names in different countries. Here in Cambodia congee is called borbor; in Indonesia it’s named bubur; in Vietnam it’s known as cháo hoa; in Thailand it’s jok or chok, and khao tom in a more watery form; in Laos it’s khao piak (wet rice); and in Myanmar it’s hsan byok (boiled rice). It’s also eaten in one form or another in Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Japan, Taiwan, and Korea.
Congee takes different forms across the region, from a watery rice soup to a thick and almost silky texture. In its simplest form, congee is essentially white rice boiled in water until it breaks down to a thick porridge, which might be seasoned with white pepper and soy sauce. For a more flavourful and richer congee, the rice is boiled in stock, rather than water.
In China, garnishes might include ingredients such as pickled vegetables, bamboo shoots, century eggs, and preserved fish, while in Southeast Asia, they can include fried garlic, spring onions, slithered ginger, pickled vegetables, sliced omelette, or ground peanuts.
You will also find congee made with mushrooms, chicken, duck, fish, pork (minced, braised, and stewed), congealed pig’s blood, offal, frog’s legs, or Chinese sausage. More luxurious versions might feature abalone or crab while in Sri Lanka there are an array of sweet rice porridges that come with everything from jaggery and treacle to raisins and cashew nuts.
No matter what the consistency, the simplicity or complexity, or the number of ingredients and garnishes, congee is typically consumed with youtiao, the breakfast sticks that are best known as Chinese donuts.
This pork and crab congee with XO sauce recipe is Australian chef Christine Manfield’s luxurious take on the humble rice porridge. Surprisingly easy to make – though a little time-consuming – Christine’s complex-tasting congee features rich ingredients such as fresh crab and pork belly, and a combination of condiments and garnishes that work perfectly together, particularly the drizzle of chilli oil and couple of dollops of the umami-packed XO sauce.
A Cantonese condiment which only surfaced in restaurants in Hong Kong in the heady boom years of the 1980s (it’s named after XO Cognac), XO sauce is expensive to buy, as you’d expect from a product made with sumptuous ingredients such as dried scallops (Japanese dried scallops go for US$138 for a one pound or 55-60 pieces on Amazon), dried shrimps, and aged ham.
Considered one of the finest, Hong Kong’s mildly-spiced Meal of Emperor XO Sauce sells for US$33 for a 2-pack of 80g jars on Amazon. More affordable, though not as rich in flavour, an 80g jar of Lee Kum Kee Hong Kong XO Sauce sells for US$12 on the site. You may find these for less in Asian supermarkets in your nearest Chinatown.
However, you can also make your own XO sauce. We haven’t attempted to make homemade XO sauce yet here in our Siem Reap kitchen, however, I like the look of this XO sauce recipe by Adam Liaw and I love my friend Lorraine Elliott AKA Not Quite Nigella’s video on how to make XO sauce from scratch featuring her mother making her own family XO sauce recipe.
Do let us know if you make Christine Manfield’s pork and crab congee with XO sauce recipe. We’d love to know how it turns out for you. We’d also love to hear how your attempts at XO sauce making go and would welcome any tips.
- 300 gr fresh crab meat
- 2 pieces green shallots sliced
- 2 tbsp salted roasted peanuts chopped
- 2 tbsp coriander leaves
- 2 tbsp fried rice flakes seasoned
- 1 tbsp chilli oil
- 2 tbsp XO sauce
- 200 gr med/long grain rice washed in cold water and drained
- 400 gr pork belly cut into 8 square chunks
- 50 gr bacon finely sliced
- 2 litres chicken stock
- 1 tbsp ginger finely sliced
- 1 pinch sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to tasste
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- 50 ml light soy sauce
- To prepare the porridge, combine rice, pork, bacon and stock in large pot and bring slowly to boil, skimming occasionally. Cover with lid and simmer over gentle heat for 2 hours, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until rice grains have virtually dissolved and pork is tender.
- Remove from heat and take out pork chunks, allow to cool enough to handle and shred the meat finely, discarding skin. Return pork to rice with the ginger, salt and pepper, sesame oil and soy sauce – taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
- Reheat the rice over medium heat, add the crab meat and simmer in saucepan for 10 mins, until crab is cooked.
- Spoon into serving bowls, add drizzle of chilli oil and sprinkle garnishes over the top and add a dollop of XO sauce.