Cháo is the transformation of small amounts of rice: after prolonged simmering in broth, it turns into a thick porridge soup. This is a great way to use up leftover cooked rice or to make it go a long way. However, this basic dish can be lifted into something much more luxurious by cooking the cháo with duck. It is then served with slices of duck next to the congee and alongside a ginger-based nuoc cham dipping sauce. If you prefer, you can use a whole chicken instead of duck. To make life easier, ask the butcher to joint the duck and poach it in pieces instead of whole. Or use chicken stock instead of water and poach pre-cut chicken or duck breast for 30 minutes in the congee broth.
Bring 2 litres of water to the boil in a very large saucepan over medium heat. Add the whole duck and the salt and bring back to the boil. Add the rice, sugar, ginger, bouillon and pepper. Cover the pan with the lid and simmer for 75–90 minutes over low heat.
Combine the onion pickle ingredients and leave for at least 1 hour.
For the dipping sauce, combine the garlic, ginger, chillies and vinegar and leave for about 5 minutes – the vinegar will slightly “cook” the ingredients. Add the sugar and fish sauce. Divide between individual dipping bowls and leave for at least 1 hour.
Remove the pan from the heat, and set the duck aside to rest and cool slightly. Now joint the duck, slice the flesh and arrange it on a serving dish. Divide the hot congee between 6–8 soup bowls. Serve with the duck, onion pickle, dipping sauce and garnishes.