Late night Congee, 食夜粥...does it make Kung Fu Stronger?
I remember when I would fly into Hong Kong to arrive at my grandparents house late at night. It would be around midnight in Kowloon. Most of the lights in my Grandfather's building would already be off. The loud hustle and bustle of the streets of Hong Kong would have turned into a calm stillness. Here I am, a 6 year old boy, eyes barely open, would drag myself into his house. All I would want at that point and time was to find a bed and go to sleep. But every year when we would arrive, my Grandmother would have freshly made Chinese Congee ready to eat. One of my fondest memories whenever returning home was to eat this Late Night Congee.
Fast forward 20 years, I would soon find out from my father that to eat Late Night Congee had a completely different meaning. In Cantonese Chinese,食夜粥, or Sik Yeh Jook, meant that one was practicing Kung Fu. In olden times, practitioners would we working hard for many hours, even late into the night. The Sifu's wife would often boil rice porridge, or congee, in appreciation for the student's hard work. Eventually, the slang of eating "Late Night Congee" or 食夜粥 became popular. As modern times progressed, students would rarely stay late to practice or even to dine on Late Night Congee.
Many fitness experts nowadays frown upon heavy carbohydrate consumption post workout. I know that many years ago when I first started learning from my Sifu, Buck Sam Kong, I would train for many hours, but would easily find myself walking into a Chinese restaurant right afterwards. But did all this late night eating really help my Kung Fu? Or was I just feeding my unending appetite. My Si-hings know of how I have no problem finishing 7 bowls of Won Tons when we were in Hong Kong. But it could also be that the Chinese were on to something.
Chinese people believe in Hot and Cold energies. One concept is Yeet Hay 熱氣, or Hot energy. Many fried and greasy foods often fill this category and can potentially disturb our balance. Foods like Congee is easy to digest and, if made properly, can tonify the Chi. How does this apply to Kung Fu practioners? After intensive workouts, many of us spend massive amounts energy to go through forms, weapons, and sparring. I know many of us have felt almost completely drained after a good Kung Fu workout. To find efforts to replenish and re-balance our bodies could be actually beneficial. I of course cannot tell a lie, living in Monterey Park, I am surrounded by delicious late night Chinese food. Many of my post Kung Fu meals did not always replenish my Chi, just my waistline.
Another great approach to use this dish would be possibly prior to a good Kung Fu workout. Since many Chinese hospitals still use congee as a nutritional supplement for sick patient due to its easy digestibility, it could prove to a better pre-workout meal. Does this mean that a nice bowl of salted pork and preserved duck egg congee, my favorite, will suddenly turn you into a Kung Fu master? Maybe not. But it might just give you that little energy boost you need to have a great Kung Fu workout.
So what is the final verdict? Do we eat after Kung Fu? Do we load up on carbs prior to a good workout? Is Chinese congee really the secret to success? Or are we better off living with the notion of Sik Yeh Jook ,食夜粥, as a simple slang. It honestly is up the individual preference of each Kung Fu practioners. So for now I wish everyone great Kung Fu, healthy bodies, and happy eating!