I’m a convert to congee for the common cold. I used to reach for clear Thai soups with their lemongrass zings, or to Vietnamese pho with extra mint. But lately, particularly since I discovered this rice gruel at Jo Moon Ting, in two dozen varieties, I’m a congee girl.
I’ve been buying Jo Moon’s barbeque duck and lacquered slow cooked pork for about a year now, since this family run business first opened and since I happened by the window where the Jo Moon meat hangs. The aroma of those ducks and pigs wafts delectably down the block, and my nose and wallet made a beeline to the take away window. The lads have been perfuming their school lockers with JML pork sandwiches ever since.
But lately I’ve been sitting down. Options for that do not abound in this busy, pokey little dining room, but if you’re lucky, or have booked ahead, you may find a berth at one of the ten Jo Moon tables, the laminate protected with wipe-clean picnic cloths.
When you open Jo Moon Ting’s golden menu you will find some 40 ways with congee listed on page one. Order up some sweet breadsticks to go along side and you have a cold on its way out the door by the time you’ve settled the $8 bill.
Although it’s tough not to be tempted by a few little nuggets of dim sum. Not much choice here, and most of it pretty familiar stuff, nevertheless, eggplant stuffed with shrimp paste and steamed shrimp dumplings (har gow) should not be overlooked, nor should the house siu mai (open faced pork dumplings). The pot stickers are also very fine, bulbous treats filled with moist gingery minced pork, and I quite like the kidneys with ginger and scallion.
I tend to skip the noodle soup and the lo mein dishes and head straight to the BBQ section – chickens, roast pork and BBQ duck, perfumed with the sweet warmth of anise and five spice.
They whip up a very fine crispy beef here. It has some pow about it, but if you like a lot of Szechwan fire you will need to ask for a peppier version. Beneath the crisp, the meat is tender, and the sweet sauce is balanced, not cloying. Baby bok choy, when available, is braised with lots of garlic and I like the Szechwan green beans with pork.
Call me crazy, but I keep the congee for last. It’s a comfort food, dessert-like for me, mild and sludgy, like runny oatmeal or coddled eggs or my mum’s rice pudding. Haven’t had the sniffles in months.