When I recovered, I had a lingering cough, so I did not telephone my mother to speak with her for a while. After a few weeks passed, and with the cough still present, I had to call my mum. So I did. The phone rang and rang. It’s terrible of me, but I was glad she was not at home. So I rang my brother to have a chat with him, but he was not at home either. Next, I tried my sister. Thankfully, she was at home, otherwise I would have got all morose.
I hoarsely chatted to my sister, coughing and spluttering occassionally. She asked me about the cough and I told her that I had been so sick that I had taken a week – an entire week! – off work, and that I spent most of the time in bed, unable even to read. She commiserated. Suddenly, I blurted out, “But don’t tell Um! Don’t tell her I was that sick. She’ll worry.”
On one of the days I was home from work, I made a huge pot of chicken congee. I think it cured me (minus that lingering cough).
For the congee:-
- 200gms chicken (whatever part suits you. I used breast, but thighs would also have been great).
- Ginger, about a cm of, sliced
- Carrot, one, diced
- Fish sauce, splash
- Jasmine rice, a cup of, or thereabouts
- Water, a lot
- Coriander for garnish
- Ngo gai (perennial coriander, also known as sawtooth or Thai coriander. I don’t know why it’s called Thai coriander because coriander coriander is also used in Thai cooking, and ngo gai is used in Thai and Viet cooking (and possibly other cuisines, I just don’t know). Probably has other names too.)
How to cook it:-
- In a decent sized saucepan and on medium heat, saute the garlic in as small amount of oil as you can manage.
- Toss in the rice and stir it quickly around the saucepan.
- Pour in enough water to thoroughly cover the rice.
- Add your chicken, ginger and carrot.
- Pour in enough water to cover everything.
- Let the whole mixture boil briskly for about ten minutes.
- Extract the chicken. Let it cool, then tear into strips and put back into the saucepan.
- Turn the heat down and let the chao simmer until the rice grains have taken in so much water that they cannot take anymore. You cannot leave the saucepan – you can wander away but you must not forget it. You will need to keep topping up with water, so have some pre-boiled water handy.
- When the chao is the consistency you like – my Ba and I are at the extremities of the chao consistency spectrum: he prefers his rice grains a bit al dente and his water a clearish broth; I prefer my rice grains thoroughly soft and the chao water thick with the broken up, water sodden rice grains – add a splash of fish sauce. For the way my Ba likes chao, the simmering part only takes about 15 minutes. For the way I like chao, the simmering takes an hour.
- Turn the heat off, let cool for about 5 minutes and then serve into nice bowls, with garnish, cracked pepper and soy sauce.
Although, given that I crave this when I am sick, it is sometimes just too much effort and I will pout instead. Does not work to make my tummy full, but makes me feel a bit better.