A One-Day Congee Pop-Up Is Coming to Chinatown

This comfort-food classic is ready just in time for Lunar New Year.

If there’s two things I love, it’s a perfect collab and too-much seafood. So what better way to celebrate this Lunar New Year than with an all-day congee dream-team pop-up? The Chef and the Fish Monger is happening January 30, and for one day only, so mark your calendars. I’ll make it easier, say this out loud now: “Hey Siri, put in calendar for January 30: it’s congee o’clock!

Poster for pop-up with text and image of woman throwing fish from boat to another woman

Joining forces for this limited congee engagement is B.C.’s number-one boat-to-table sustainable seafood purveyor, Fresh Ideas Start Here (FISH) and former FISH alumnae and Top Chef Canada season 10 runner-up Deseree Lo bringing the Asian comfort-food classic as well as Chinese snacks to Chinatown BBQ this Monday.

If you’re like me and have never had congee before (think: rice porridge but typically served with ingredients like meat, fish, seasonings and flavourings as either a savoury or sweet treat), this is the perfect way to try it. Otherwise, congee connoisseurs will tell you that FISH’s congee is renowned for bringing big flavour with its rice being simmered in premium B.C. halibut broth.

Jenice Yu and Deseree Lo
Credit: Joanna Chu (pictured) Fresh Ideas Start Here (FISH) CEO and owner Jenice Yu and FISH alumnae and Top Chef Canada season 10 runner-up Deseree Lo.

The popularity of the seasonal seafood congee came as a surprise to Jenice Yu, CEO and owner of Fresh Ideas Start Here. “We launched our seasonal seafood congee out of FISH a few years ago and had no idea it would take-off the way it did.” The pop-up was a way to honour that tasty tradition and share its meaningful heritage with the community. “We thought it was time to open a congee pop-up. A day dedicated to the classic Chinese rice porridge so many of us grew up with, especially in Vancouver’s Chinatown, where I used to go often as a child,” says Yu.

Of course, the collaboration with Deseree Lo was a no-brainer for Yu. “Chef Dez was the one who created our first congee iteration at FISH,” says Yu. “We knew we wanted to do our first pop-up with her.”

Close up of seafood congee
Credit: Joanna Chu

The Chef and The Fishmonger is only happening for one day, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. You can make reservations ahead of time (I would) or take your chances and drop by for a seat. The congees start at $16, part of an exclusive menu featuring items like the OLGee (which has fresh halibut, ling cod, salted wild salmon, octopus and shrimp), the BOUGeeAF (with lobster tail, Hokkaido scallops, mussels, clams, octopus, uni and ikura), or the FUNGee (Matsutake stock, local foraged mushrooms, ginger, garlic, scallions).

Above shot of congee bowl with seafood and sauce on side
Credit: Joanna Chu

The congee flavours all come with either fish or mushroom stock bases, and your choice of seasoned sweet or spicy soy, fried garlic, green onions and Lo’s chili oil. Sides include a compressed cucumber salad, fried shallots and chili lime; marinated tofu skin salad with bean sprouts, celery, sesame and fermented bean curd dressing; and assorted pickles with Lo’s kimchi, ma-la (spicy) bamboo shoots and mustard greens. To complete the congee feast, there’s even a dessert: Crispy Sweet black sesame rice balls, with peanut powder

Seriously, just say, “Hey Siri this Monday it’s an all-day congee-a-thon!” and I’ll see you there?

For more information on this pop-up, check out eatfish.ca.