The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

Congee Village, Cupcakes, and "Buttery" Popcorn


Congee Village is a well-known Chinese restaurant in NYC for congee, spacious rooms equipped to hold giant dinner parties, and incongruous eye-raping decor. Okay, maybe...blinding is a better word. It's not really that bad. Just a little off, if you know what I mean. Bright, saturated colored lights shining out of every crevice, lots of red, lots of gold, a mishmash of things like that. It's far from dingy—perhaps "refined tackiness" would be a way to describe it.

I picked Congee Village for dinner about two Fridays ago in order to accommodate a large group (Olivia, Tristan, John, Paul, Lihan, and myself) and give the restaurant another shot. The first (and only) time I had eaten there was more than two years ago, an experience that I emerged from somewhat underwhelmed. I didn't get to try that many dishes and not liking congee with a burning passion (the passion that seemingly all Chinese people are born with except for myself...seriously, there are people who flip their shit about congee like it's a big bowl of molten unicorn babies, and that's totally cool because I do the same thing about many foods, just not for congee) may have had something to do with my "meh" response.

My second try was only a little bit better. I'm still underwhelmed though.

boneless chicken feet
So many chickens gave their lives.

First up: boneless chicken feet in some kind of spicy Thai sauce. This was Lihan's pick—he was curious because he had never seen boneless chicken feet, nor had any of us. However, I have tried chicken feet before, which ended in epic fail, mostly me thinking, "How the heck is this appealing to anyone?" (I know a lot of people love chicken feet; you don't have to explain yourselves.)

boneless chicken feet

Picking up the floppy, squid-like feet with slippery plastic chopsticks was the first hurdle to get over. Something inside me, a something located around the vicinity of my stomach, grimaced with every squishy escape of the feet. Each unsuccessful grasp was like my chopsticks' way of saying, "Don't go any further; you definitely won't like it. Hell, even I'm disgusted. Let me pick up something nicer, like those sliced lotus roots over there. STOP JABBING ME INTO THE GODDAMN FEET."

But I persevered. I had to at least try the feet before deciding I didn't like them. So I finally got one. And I bit into it. And...

...Um. It was kind of like eating overcooked squid. Cold overcooked squid. But more impervious to the chomping motion of my teeth. Admittedly, the sauce tasted good—a little sweet and spicy—but I don't think chicken feet could be dressed in anything tasty enough for me to like them. Not even molten unicorn babies.

Lihan was the only one who went back for seconds. The brave soul.

lotus root something something
Lotus root

The sautéed lotus root with special bean paste sauce was inoffensive. ...I mean, I went back for seconds, thirds, and so forth. I was initially taken aback by the flavor of the bean sauce, which was sweet and cinnamon-y, reminiscent of apple pie, but it wasn't bad. Just unexpected. The lotus roots were crisp and crunchy like water chestnut. (Or water chestnut corms to be more precise. I HAS A CORM?! HEHEHE...please excuse my stupidity.)

snow pea leaf!
Snow pea leaf

As usual, Chinese vegetables pwn everything else. Sautéed snow pea leaves was probably my favorite dish of the night and is one of my favorite vegetables to order at a Chinese restaurant. A big pile of crispy chlorophyll in what I assumed was a garlicky sauce.

meaty congee
Meaty congee

I went with the roast duck and meat ball congee to fulfill my congee requirement. I grew up only eating the type of congee (maybe common in Taiwan?) that was more like a flavorless combination of water and a few grains of rice accompanied by pickles and random meatstuffs on the side. It looked more like prison food than breakfast. This kind of congee was a thick, hearty savory porridge with bits of duck and meatball chunks floating throughout. I may not love the crap out of it, but it's definitely tasty and makes a good comfort food.

eggplant, salted fish and chicken casserole something or other

I went straight for the salted fish, chicken, and eggplant casserole. Something about eggplant and salted fish just get the salivary glands a-goin'. While the combination of tender eggplant chunks, chicken nubs, and bits of salted fish certainly didn't taste bad, no other eggplant ever tastes as good as the one from Grand Sichuan. Maybe it's because GS douses everything in mucus membrane-burning chili sauce. But I think it's more than that. GS serves fat eggplant chunks the size of giant sausages; such excess is satisfying.

noodles!  With stuff!

Olivia requested this mei fun dish, the exact one of which I can't recall. Er. Well. It's not very interesting, but it tastes good! Rice noodles are my favorite kind of noodle—I'd go for mei fun anytime.

crab something something
I fail at shellfish.

John wanted this crab casserole, something that I'd never get on my own will because I was born with an inability to eat shellfish. At least, straight from the shell. I can poke and prod at the thick exoskeleton container all I want and only successfully extract a sliver of meat the width of a toothpick. This is probably because I keep choosing the meatless parts of the animals, but I'm also blaming it on inescapable fate.

sweet potato "pancake"
Mm, pan..cakes?

We finished off with sweet potato pancakes, which I would propose renaming as "sticky, gelatinous sweet potato pucks" for greater accuracy. I guess that name isn't as appealing as "pancakes" though. This dessert didn't taste bad (although I would've liked it more if it were sweeter)—it just wasn't what we were expecting. Judging from the heavy mochi-like texture, I assume they were made from glutinous rice flour. This doesn't qualify as a "must try," unless you're curious enough.

eat up, guys
Nom nom nom

Here's photographic evidence that I didn't eat everything on my own. Look, multiple stomachs! That's all my friends are for. Sacs of extra digestive fluids.

looking at the TV screen other table
Happy birthday

Near the end of our meal the flat screen TV at the end of the room suddenly sprang into the magic of karaoke. A cake was brought out to the adjoining table and for a brief moment we were serenaded to a wordless twinkle of the "Happy Birthday Song" accompanied by some incongruous video recording. Now you know what to do for your next birthday! UHH YEAH!!

Olivia and Paul
Olivia and Paul nom nom.

We headed to Sugar Sweet Sunshine for a hit of sugar. I was actually too full by this point to eat a cupcake. Yeah, I know, I know; your disappointment is deafening. I got a wee bite out of Tristan's pistachio cupcake, but mostly watched everyone else eat their heavily frosted cake chunks with gusto as I lolled about in my chair, weighed down by too much Chinese food.


Later than night Tristan and I made the Hurricane Popcorn that Kathy gave to me, brought from the motherland of Hawaii.

Mm, we have popcorn

Hurricane Popcorn is awesomer than normal microwave popcorn because it comes with a pack of rice cracker-mochi-nori seasoning and its own giant shaking bag. After popping the corn, you dump it in the bag with the seasoning before adding...


...the BUTTAH! Not butter. Buttah. Or "butter." For it was made of soybean oil, artificial flavor, and beta carotene. That's not the worst ingredient list I've ever seen, but it turns off a lot of people. We tried it because Kathy would break up our friendship if I refused—I replaced the butter with olive oil a few years ago when she first sent me a Hawaiian food care package and I think that thoughtless action ripped out a bit of her soul. Not using the "butter" causes much pain.

he ate it
We eated it.

Sadly, I must admit that it would've been better with real butter. ...Okay, that's not very surprising, but I think admitting that must tear a little bit more out of Kathy's soul. I AM SORRY, KATHY! WE LUV YOU, REALLY! The popcorn was awesome. Tristan licked the bowl clean


Congee Village
100 Allen St
New York, NY 10002

Sugar Sweet Sunshine
126 Rivington St
New York, NY 10002

Attack of the Meme

Christina tagged me for a "five random facts" survey. Since my blog is where memes come to die, I'm not going to tag anyone. Hell, I had trouble thinking of five things that weren't as boring as, "I have a toenail clipper."

...On that note, please enjoy!

  1. I woke up at 1PM this morning. I went to bed at 5AM if that makes it any more acceptable. On weekday nights I usually get about 5 hours of sleep. Everyone is surprised that I don't drown myself in coffee every morning. I pretty much pass out during my morning and evening commute.
  2. I only just started listening to Neutral Milk Hotel. I know I'm 10 years late; my 12 year old mind just wasn't ready for them. This happens sometimes.
  3. I have a melodica that I don't use. I have a handful of instruments that I fail to use on even the most sporadic basis, mostly because I'm blogging/editing photos/working/staring at the computer, but I picked the melodica because I rarely get to use that word. Melodicaaa.
  4. I was on a basketball team in 7th grade. Mostly because of peer pressure, not because I had any skill. Most of my best friends were in it and since you didn't have to actually be good to join the team, we all did it for fun. ...And got the crap beat out of us, except for my one friend who was actually the most athletic girl in our grade and made the rest of us look like we were physically disabled.
  5. I've never had a pet. But I've amassed an impressive collection of stuffed animals over the years.


Kathy / February 17, 2008 7:55 PM

ZOMG. my soul. torn to pieces. see the niblets of brioche and pudding floating with the mangled soul?? But alas, U STILL HAZ LUV FOR MEH? All is good!

...and besides, I'd rather have my soul torn to pieces by you than raphael o_O!

astrid / February 17, 2008 8:14 PM

I love that eggplant with garlic sauce. I love it. I love it forever. I lived on it in China. And I had it for lunch today. If you are ever stranded in Boston with a hankering for this very dish, I recommend Sichuan Garden in Brookline Village. Nice lucious chunks of eggplant there too.

Kay / February 17, 2008 8:27 PM

It's interesting how we all (I'm asian of course) like rice but not necessary everything made of rice. I don't love congee but when there is good congee I can't get enought of it. I've heard of a restaurant in Hong Kong that just serves congee and its suppose to be really really good and like rich people go there for lunch. I wonder if any other eaters have heard of it. I love mei fun as well (that'd be rice noddles).

I have some kind of inner grudge against lotus roots though. On the other hand I like chicken feet. There's something about how its all skin/bone and no meat - I guess I like fat that's all. But it's like congee, it can be bad or it can be real good.

jodie / February 17, 2008 8:40 PM

i've always like in the aeroplane over the sea the song but i only just bought in the aeroplane over the sea the album today. i was ripping the songs onto my computer when i saw that and i was like omgwtfbbq! um, yeah.
and congee is awesome. when you're sick. or when it has thousand-year eggs and (re-hydrated) dried oysters in it.

Manda / February 17, 2008 9:21 PM

My friend turned me onto Hurricane Popcorn. We had to bring home a case from Hawaii last time we were there. The pre-popped kind sucks.

I just ate some of my mom's homemade chicken and mushroom congee. I'm definitely a congee lover but I prefer homemade or the Taiwanese style you described. I want to try the boneless chicken feet but half the fun in eating them is sucking the flesh of the toes. Ok, that sounded kinda weird.

Mahar / February 17, 2008 10:27 PM

Have to agree with you on that one---congee just doesn't rock my socks the way, say, a good crispy pata does.

The only times I eat congee is when it's cold and raining and huddled in blankets. Which is rare enough to be, well, practically never.

Christina / February 17, 2008 11:36 PM

I made congee a few weeks ago and really enjoyed it, but maybe it's because I didn't think of it like oatmeal, which I have a love/hate relationship with. It also had flavor.

The boneless chicken feet look suspect... As in it's something I'm not interested in trying anytime soon. I saw chicken feet at the local Chinese market here, but I assumed it was for chicken broth.

Thanks for playing along. ^.^ I really wasn't going to do it at first, as it reminded me of a chain letter, but I figured I'd do it once and nevermore. An obligatory blog requirement, or whatever!

reese / February 18, 2008 12:59 AM

I dont like congee neither. Something about white looking ground up rice yucky goo. No eggplant neither for the same reason. Soft squish of nothingness.

roboppy / February 18, 2008 1:43 AM

Claudia: I used to want a kitten or a baby bunny. I guess a kitten is more interesting. Bunnies mostly poop, eh?


Astrid: Thanks for the rec! I always have a craving for eggplant. It's illness.

Kay: I like most things made out of rice, but...yeah, congee not so much. I prefer rice in noodle form. :) OR MOCHI!!

Oh, I can't feel the love for the chicken feet. Sometimes textures really throw me off. Beef tendon is another one.

Jodie: Ahh I love that song! I don't have the album yet, just a few songs. Will have to get the rest of the album...sooon.

Manda: I haven't had homemade congee. :(

As for sucking the flesh from the toes...well. ...Hm. I have a feeling that wouldn't win me over, hehe. ;)


Mm, blanket huddle..

Christina: I have a love/hate relationship with oatmeal too! I like it mostly in cookies. -_- As for the porridgey stuff, I like it in small quantities. Over a certain quantity, it makes me kinda sick. Hm. I dunno if I could eat a full bowl of it.

Reese: OH NOO, EGGPLANT IS SO GOOD! But you're right, it's quite soft and squishy. Like jelly. Still, it's tasty...for some reason...

Ed B. / February 18, 2008 9:07 AM

hi robyn!

i've been lurking in your blog since last year but i couldn't help but comment about CRISPY PATA..

i agree that CRISPY PATA rocks (i'm Filipino btw :P) but it still doesn't compare to BAGNET..

BAGNET is usually made from the pig's belly.. which is boiled and then DEEP fried until it's golden brown.. after this it is air dried and DEEP fried again.. this process is repeated until the skin becomes crunchy beyond belief..

i know you encountered overcooked and dry CRISPY PATA.. but believe me when i tell you that all that cooking doesn't render the BAGNET dry at all.. it's not moist but not dry either.. ^_^

if you know someone from the Philippines maybe you can ask them to buy you some.. :P

(btw, here's a pic to whet your appetite:

Tina / February 18, 2008 9:25 AM

I've never been a fan of chicken but pig's feet is a whole 'nother story! At least, the way my mom makes it, it's freakin' tasty with the pork fat and collagen with bits of silky meat when it's stewed to perfection. Nom nom.

Amelia / February 18, 2008 11:29 AM

Wow, that looks amazing! I love NYC, was there last December. Being very Asian, I kept running back to Chinatown for more Chinese food. I loved Chinatown! :)


Lena / February 18, 2008 1:08 PM

"I grew up only eating the type of congee (maybe common in Taiwan?) that was more like a flavorless combination of water and a few grains of rice accompanied by pickles and random meatstuffs on the side."

This is the type of congee I grew up eating, too. My parents come from northeastern China, so it probably isn't just a Taiwanese thing. I, too, don't particularly like this watery breakfast staple, but with a LOT of pickled radish, it's passable. It boggles my mind to see congee restaurants, since I never thought of the food as something anyone would pay to eat.

roboppy / February 18, 2008 3:30 PM

Ed: ...WHAT THE HELL. OH NOES. Now I have a new goal in life. Which is to eat that. I favorited that photo you linked too. -__- I cannot resist.

(Thanks for delurking!)

Tina: I haven't had pigs feet before. ._. I think I'd like it more than chicken feet though!

Amelia: Chinatown used to be my favorite area! I mean, I still love it. Restaurants, grocery stores, bakeries...mostly bakeries...

Carl: Except for the chicken feet.

Coco: You have to stay much longer next time. ;)

Lena: Oh my god I loved the pickled...anything! That and pork floss were my favorite condiments. :) Pickled cucumber is my fave. I have a jar of it in the fridge. But I'd rather eat it with non-watery rice.

Danny / February 18, 2008 9:49 PM

Mmmm.. chicken feet. I love 'em, but to be fair, they really do not taste like anything, it's mostly a texture thing. The boneless ones sound really interesting though.

And the hurricane popcorn looks awesome! Beta carotene!

Carrot / February 18, 2008 9:54 PM


(I hope it's okay to post these pictures, I have a strange sense of humor...)

Julie / February 18, 2008 10:52 PM

Wowee, your meal kinda sounded like a bummer, aside from the noodles, and sorta the eggplant. I've never actually had congee, but there's a Filipino version called arroz caldo that I love with all my heart--total winter comfort food!

roboppy / February 18, 2008 11:50 PM


Yes, all good fake butter comes with beta carotene!

Carrot: Oh man, that's one of my favorite pictures. Your humor seems just about as strange as mine...which is okay by me!

Julie: I need to try more filipino food! That stuff probably tastes better than...whatever i had, haha. -__-

Michael Sid / February 19, 2008 1:17 PM

Aiya - you didn't order the best dishes at Congee!

Next time - if there is a next time - you may want to consider the following:

1. House Special Chicken - It is a soy sauce whole chicken but they crisp the skin in the correct way by ladling hot oil over it. And then they serve it in a garlicky soy sauce that is loads better than any soy sauce chicken anywhere else in chinatown.

2. Flounder Fillet in Two Tastes - Basically it is two fish dishes in one specially-designed plate. Flounder chunks deep fried in a tempura-like batter and then flounder chunks sauteed in a regular sort of fish dish sauce with plenty of green, green veggies. Delicious.

3. Scallion Pancakes - I'm not a fan of scallion pancakes in general but these are out of the world and in a different world - like eating a freshly cooked cracker. And of course they have a special plate for these as well that suspends them in a way that they don't soak up their own grease.

So if after trying these you still don't like Congee...well I guess you just don't like Congee Village that much...

roboppy / February 19, 2008 1:47 PM

Michael: HAHA I liked that you started with "aiya"...god knows how many times I've heard that in my life. -__-

Anyhoo, you are completely right that we didn't get the best dishes; thanks for the recommendations. I forgot to mention that we were confused as to what to get cos none of us knew...what to get! Those chicken and fish dishes sound awesome. I have to disagree about the scallion pancake though, unless it has changed in the past few years...which is highly possible. Maybe the one I had was overly greasy. :(

eatyourheartout / February 20, 2008 10:34 PM

Ha - funny that I come across this post just now. I was over at Congee Village for the first time (been to congee bowery) just the past weekend for an afternoon lunch.

unfortunately, I wasn't impressed with the congee selections and flavor. there wasn't anything that was "adventersome" to try. why call it congee village!?

My mother makes better! XD

mm... snow pea leaves.

roboppy / February 21, 2008 12:32 AM

Kim: Oo, cute band, thanks for the link!

D: You're lucky; you have a CHINESE MOTHER!

..I mean, I do too, but she doesn't count. Heh. ;)

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