If you’re looking for a hearty breakfast on a cold winter’s day it’s hard to get something more satisfying than congee, the Chinese rice porridge.
It wasn’t exactly chilly the day I tried it at Big Wong, but it was raining. And windy. So that’s enough of an excuse.
Big Wong is known for its Cantonese specialties. And if you’re not there for breakfast — even if you are and you’re especially hungry — you should try the lacquered duck or the roast pork.
I was on my own, and half a serving of the congee was about all I could muster. It comes with this fabulous fried bread, which is sweet like a churro, but without the sugar and cinnamon topping. (Yes, it’s as big as your head.)
There are 13 varieties of congee. I got the salty pork and thousand-year-egg version. The porridge is silky, comforting, milky. The scallion, cilantro and ginger topping mixes into the gruel to give it a punch of flavor. And then you get the little treasures of salty pork and funky egg. (Not, it’s not really 1,000 years old.) Break off pieces of the bread and use it as a little spoon to deliver the deliciousness.
There’s lots more to try on the menu. When I was leaving, I asked my (Chinese) table-neighbors what one of their dishes was. A roast chicken. “Do you want to try it?” he asked. “No, thanks, I said, but that’s so nice of you.” “Really!” he said, “Please give it a try!” I didn’t. But wasn’t that sweet?
The service is a little brusk, and the decor is nothing to write home about at Big Wong — it has terra-cotta colored tile and 1970s-style tables, but there’s something a little retro and fun about it. It’s simple, straightforward and gets the job done. Just like the restaurant.
The 411 on Big Wong, (also known as Big Wong King): 67 Mott St., (near Bayard), Manhattan. 212-964-0540, bigwongking.com.