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Put a lid

Bao co-founder
Erchen Chang’s
comforting ham hock congee pie
is a treat for the taste buds

Erchen Chang

For me, congee is the ultimate comfort food. It’s one of those dishes I grew up eating in Taiwan and it always reminds me of home. The ham hock congee pie is on the menu at our newest restaurant, which is our take on a Western-style café that you would find in Asia.

Growing up I used to go to Western-style restaurants with my family. One vivid memory is a popular dish: a puff pastry chowder. This ham hock congee pie marries two of my fond childhood memories.

Ingredients (serves 3)

150g short grain rice
1 ham hock (about 1kg-1.3kg)
1 knob of ginger, peeled and crushed
2.5L water
1 sheet of
puff pastry (home-made, or store bought will do fine)
1 egg yolk
2 sprigs of
spring onion
1 pinch of white pepper

Ham hock congee pie

1. Rinse the rice in water three times; the rice water should go from white to very faintly opaque. Simmer the washed rice, ham hock and ginger with 6 cups of filtered water in a casserole dish or clay pot, stirring often. It will be ready when the rice is half disintegrated and the congee consistency is similar to gruel — around 40 minutes to 1 hour.

2. Remove the ham hock and give the congee a good whisk to break down the rice further and create a creaminess. Replace the ham, add another 4 cups of water and cook for 1 hour.

3. To prepare the congee the way we serve it in Cafe Bao, preheat the oven to 200C. Cut the puff pastry sheet to about 15x15cm — or big enough to overhang the bowl — and brush a layer of whisked egg yolk over the top. Pop the egg-washed pastry back into the fridge to chill until it’s time to bake. Meanwhile, chop the spring onion into fine circles and set aside.

4. Once the congee is ready, debone and roughly chop the ham and place back into the congee . Remove the ginger and discard. Sprinkle in the white pepper and chopped spring onion and give it a good stir.

5. Prepare an oven-safe bowl, preferably the classic lion head soup bowl. Ladle in the congee mixture to about three quarters full. Take the puff pastry out of the fridge, wet the rim of the bowl lightly with water and place the pastry sheet over, pressing down lightly so it sticks. Brush over the egg wash again for that extra golden shine when it’s baked.

6. Place the bowl into the oven and bake for 7 minutes. Make sure you do not open the oven door during this time to ensure a good rise on the puff pastry. Serve the congee immediately with soy sauce on the side.