Congee Wong, or quite literally, "King of Congee" in Chinese, has quite a big name to live up to. Nestled in a popular Chinese suburban mall, this local favourite has long been the destination for reliable cheap eats. The interior is bright and comfortable, but otherwise unremarkable. Clearly, the focus is on the food and the low prices. Within seconds of entering, we are whisked into a corner booth and handed two menus and a pot of hot tea.
The impressively large menu is broken down into various categories, including congee, noodle in soup, fried rice, etc. Even for regulars, the number of choices might be overwhelming - the congee section alone offers 55 options, featuring everything from seafood to offal.
We go with the simplest - the dried scallop plain congee ($1.95 - top photo). A dauntingly large bowl of steaming hot congee swiftly arrives. Although it looks deceivingly plain, the congee is flavourful and has a wonderful, velvety texture. The preparation of this basic concoction is a test of a congee restaurant's calibre and in this case, Congee Wong certainly delivers.
To accompany the congee, a server brings us the ox-tongue pastry ($1.50), aptly named for its distinctive shape. Perfectly dense and chewy, the lightly sweetened doughnut contrasts well with the light and savoury congee.
From the rice noodle roll section, we opt for the dough fritter rice noodle roll ($2.95): deep-fried bread stick enveloped by a thin layer of rice noodle, served with sweetened soy sauce and two dips. The rice noodle itself is flavourless, but is a smooth and silky textural counterpart to the crispy bread stick. For this dish, I personally prefer a higher rice noodle to bread stick ratio. Nevertheless, the combination of the sauce and nutty dips is delectable.
Longing for some more greasy goodness, we lastly sample the Singaporean fried chili turnip patties ($5.25). In the past, I have had many experiences with this dish going horribly wrong, but Congee Wong delivers a solid execution. On the outside, the turnip patties are perfectly golden and crispy, while the inside maintains the melt-in-your-mouth tenderness. Bits of chicken, scallops, diced garlic and fried eggs are tasty additions and compliment the patties well. One complaint is that the chili, while aromatic, lacks the heat that I'm looking for. Fortunately, chili oil is readily available to spice it up.
Congee Wong is not the sort of place to linger around on a lazy Sunday afternoon. It is evident that the staff is well-trained to work efficiently, and the customer turnover is rather high. During busy hours, it would not be surprising to find the bill arriving at the table even before all the food is gone. But with generous portions, affordable prices, and quality offerings, this Markham eatery cooks up a good recipe for success.