There are precious little areas I consider myself an expert in, but congee connoisseur is among the few. It is my favorite breakfast food, go-to comfort food, and I make it regularly at home. I started loving congee when I tried Cantonese style congee for the first time when I was 7 years old. Prior to that I only had Shanghainese style congee which sucked. Since then I have ordered congee every time it is on the menu sort of like my obsession with hot and sour soup. I have had in Thailand, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, and all over China but find that they cannot compare to Cantonese style congee. I also tried Korean style congee but find it too thick though the flavor is good.
In my mind, Hong Kong is the undisputed King of Congee. Even an average bowl of congee here will be better than most. During the 14 months that I lived in Hong Kong 2011-2012, I set out to find the best of the best. After trying nearly 30+ congee shops specializing in congee all over Hong Kong and returning to some more than once, my conclusion is that Wong Chi Kee is my favorite. See my thoughts on other congee shops in Hong Kong at the end of this post.
Not only is the texture and consistency of their congee perfect, the flavor of their crab congee is just out of this world. I like both the Wong Chi Kee in Central and the Wong Chi Kee in Macau. Sometimes I have them add a century egg to my crab congee to provide more texture. Wong Chi Kee also serves quality century eggs, almost the same caliber as the famous roast goose joint Yung Kee, which doesn’t actually serve that great roast goose. I am biased on the topic of roast goose as I much prefer a Peking Ducking. My husband always says why eat roast goose when Peking duck is available. But back to congee.
Wong Chi Kee does not skimp on ingredients nor do they skimp on quality. There is an entire crab and entire century egg in their bowl of congee. Despite the amount of work involved in consuming crab congee, the natural umami flavor of the congee is worth it. Sometimes the crab meat is cooked just right, sometimes it is overcooked. But you are not here for the crabmeat, you are here for the congee that has absorbed all the umami goodness of the crab. If you like lots of ingredients in your congee, order Wong Chi Kee’s roast duck congee or the always dependable pork and century egg.
I have ordered the crab congee at Wong Chi Kee’s Central shop at least 20+ times in the year that I lived in Hong Kong. It has never disappointed me nor my parents nor the many friends I have brought. The consistency and smoothness of their congee is something that many Hong Kong congee shops cannot achieve. It is pricy for a bowl of congee. A bowl of crab congee is around $12USD, adding in a century egg is around $2USD more. A roast duck or pork and century egg congee is about $7USD and up. Local congee shops usually range from $2USD and up. I don’t recommend anything else at Wong Chi Kee except their congee as the rest of the menu is very average, though sometimes I do order a Singapore Mei Fun or Beef Chow Fun to go with my congee on days that I am especially hungry. I do wish that Wong Chi Kee served fried crullers, instead they serve fried fish skin which is a local favorite.
My thoughts of the more famous congee shops known to tourists that I have tried:
-Tasty Congee & Noodles: good congee but not as smooth as Wong Chi Kee. Also suspect MSG in their congee. Tried 3 times since its within the IFC mall, quality varies.
-Sang Kee: This extremely famous shop is 5 minutes from where I lived in Hong Kong. I tried their famous fish congee which I find disappointing because of all the bones and the fact that it is slightly fishy. I have had really delicious fish congee and this isn’t it. I don’t why their fish congee always sells out other than the fact its cheap? Only $3 USD for a huge bowl. I made my dad try it and he said meh as well. I also tried their pork and century egg congee several times. But every time I do so I regret it because I find the ingredients in Sang Kee’s to be subpar. For example I love the “white” of the century egg, but Sang Kee uses the cheap kind where the whites are almost dissolved with only the yolk remaining. I also find the base tone of their pork and century egg too porky signaling that they don’t always use the freshest pork. But the pork is extremely tender. At around $3 USD for a huge bowl, one cannot really complain.
-Law Fu Kee: also very close to my HK apartment. Decent pork and century egg congee but I don’t like their pork. Better than Sang Kee but not as good as Tasty.
-Trusty Congee King: I ordered their pork and century egg congee here one time and it sucked so bad that I couldn’t eat more than 5 spoonfuls. Only place in Hong Kong that served me luke warm congee. Perhaps I went on an off day but I don’t to waste money going back. One of the worst bowls of congee that I can recall. Besides that, the fried cruller I ordered was rock hard and stale.
-Mui Kee Congee: Very good congee and worth a try. Cheap too.
-Chee Kee: Hit or miss congee, tried their crab congee at various locations(Central, Causeway Bay, Langham Place Mall) was great half the time, fishy the other times.
-Ho Hung Kee: I don’t understand why this place received 1 Michelin star, I really don’t. I don’t like their congee because it is too bland, and too chock full of ingredients. Perhaps they wanted me to add the flavor myself? I tried the original location and the one inside Hysan Mall which has much better decor.
-Wai Kee Congee Shop: Cheap decent congee but full of MSG. Around $2 USD a bowl.
-Shun Tak Chuen Hot Pot Congee: I really like the congee here and the pricing here is cheap. But the 3 times I have been here, I have waited 40 minutes for my congee!!! And I am the first one to place the order when the shop opens at 6pm, go around for a walk in the nearby Temple street and my congee is still not ready by the time I come back. Many people complain while waiting for the congee. It is insanely fresh, for example I ordered a frog congee and a crab congee. Literally saw the guy go kill the frog and crab while waiting.
-Ocean Empire: Cheap, good, but msg congee. Very good fried cruller though, I always buy my fried cruller here.
-Chiu Fat Porridge Noodle Restaurant: I hate to say this place has gone down the hill but it has. My first visit was in 2006 and it was great. So great that it was my daily breakfast for 4 straight days. I came back to Hong Kong in 2010 and also ate breakfast here 3 times and everything was still great. When I lived in Hong Kong for 14 months 2011-2012, the quality started to decline to the point that by the time I left I can no longer recommend it highly. But I still consider Chiu Fat’s congee to be better than Sang Kee and Wai Kee types.
The rest of the shops I will not review as they are mostly local with Chinese names only and in all honesty pretty similar to each other. Cheap, good, but most likely msg congee with a few exceptions. The only other congee place that was a standout was one where my ex-boyfriend’s aunt took me way back in 2006. The owner owned 3 congee shops located right next to each other somewhere in Mong Kok or was it Prince Edward, and the bathroom was literally a 6 inch hole in the ground. I kid you not. But they made an amazing frog congee, though you really have to wonder about their hygiene.
It’s funny how my love of congee caused my husband to hate it. Probably because I dragged him to so many congee restaurants. He rarely touches the stuff nowadays.
Wong Chi Kee Hong Kong
Basement, 10-12 Stanley Street, Central