Pork Bone Congee

Pork bone congee, or zhū gu zhōu, or, more familiar to me in Cantonese phonetics, “gee gwut jook,” is a simple rice congee dish flavored with a meaty pork bone stock.

My Mom’s Favorite Congee

I remember this pork bone congee recipe from our childhood cooked in a large 12-quart soup pot. (I often wonder where that pot went. I’ll have to ask my sisters if either of them has it stashed somewhere.)

My mom always used that pot for pork bone congee, because it was the largest pot we had in our house at the time. Even though she cooked it in large volumes, pork bone congee always went quickly, with leftovers reheated over the course of a few days.

Like most soups and stews, it seemed to get better with each day, until it was finally gone.

Pork Bone Congee, by thewoksoflife.comPork Bone Congee, by thewoksoflife.com

I remember that my mother would sometimes salt the pork bones overnight before making the congee if she had time. In those days, to my young palette, it genuinely seemed like one of the best things I ever ate—or would eat.

Perhaps it was just because our culinary standards weren’t that high, but I like to think that my mom’s delicious pork bone congee recipe really was the best. I wish I could remember more details about how she’d make it, like the salted pork bones, but I’ve tried to make mom’s recipe as close to how I remember hers tasted!

Dried Seafood Ingredients

One other point I wanted to cover is regarding the dried seafood which you can check on our Dried and Preserved Ingredients page. I think it is more of a Cantonese and/or Hong Kong thing but adding dried seafood to soups and congee gives them a nice umami boost of flavor.

Pictured below is a package of dried conch or shellfish and oddly, the package labeling does not really specify the type but based on the price, I think these were dried conch. One slice is good for this congee.

dried conchdried conch

These dried cuttlefish are about 4 to 5 inches long and may not look appetizing but certainly can make your soup quite tasty! Just add them whole after a quick rinse.

dried cuttlefishdried cuttlefish

Dried scallop is probably the favorite of the three, at least in our family, and I remember it was used for many congee and soup dishes. A couple of whacks with the back of the cleaver breaks these dried scallops up nicely.

dried scallopdried scallop

My parents have used one or more of the dried scallop, dried squid/cuttlefish and dried conch/abalone in this pork congee but one or two pieces of any of these three is sufficient to add that extra flavor without overwhelming the dish. That said, it is totally optional and up to you whether you want to add it!

This pork bone congee really is the perfect home-cooked, comforting soup for cold winter days. I hope you enjoy it!

Pork Bone Congee, by thewoksoflife.comPork Bone Congee, by thewoksoflife.com

Pork Bone Congee: Recipe Instructions

Rub the pork bones in 1 tablespoon of salt and marinate for at least 6 hours, ideally overnight, in the refrigerator.

Pork Bone Congee, by thewoksoflife.comPork Bone Congee, by thewoksoflife.com

Put the marinated pork bones in a large pot with 4½ quarts of water, and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes. Skim off any foam with a spoon or a fine-meshed strainer, and discard.

Next add the dried squid, dried conch, or dried scallops (if using). Cover the pot loosely, and turn the heat down to a simmer. Let the soup simmer for 4 hours.

Pork Bone Congee, by thewoksoflife.comPork Bone Congee, by thewoksoflife.com

Taste the soup and re-season with salt if needed. Add the soaked rice and simmer for another hour. If you decide to use Judy’s method for 20-minute Congee, then all you need is an additional 20 minutes after adding the grains!

One point I’d like to make here is that the texture and consistency of congee is a very personal thing. Some like their congee cooked like a gruel, where you can’t see any signs of individual rice granules at all.

Others prefer the rice granules cooked until they just open up or “blossom like a flower,” to use the literal translation of a Chinese expression.

Finally, some prefer it thick and others prefer it thin. This recipe yields a thick congee, where the rice is cooked until it blossoms like a flower. But once you’re familiar with this congee recipe, feel free to adjust the amount of water and/or rice according to your own preferences!

At this point, give your congee another taste, and add additional salt to taste. Ladle the congee into small bowls, and serve with chopped scallion, cilantro, and white pepper.  

Pork Bone Congee, by thewoksoflife.comPork Bone Congee, by thewoksoflife.com

Hope you enjoy my Mom’s favorite pork bone congee recipe!

Pork Bone Congee, by thewoksoflife.comPork Bone Congee, by thewoksoflife.com