Sanhe was born out of a desire to spotlight the ultimate Chinese comfort food: congee. Originally opened as a takeaway-only spot five years ago, Sanhe moved to a bigger space in the former Tofu Shoten shopfront by the Queen Vic Market earlier this year to better celebrate the Chinese rice porridge.



Photography: Jordan Price

Owners Nikki Ne and Emily Lin made minimal changes to the clean, brightly lit space, keeping the neutral colour palette of white and timber. But the counter has moved to make way for eight tables where guest can now enjoy their congee hot and in-house.

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Ne tells Broadsheet the duo spent more than four months developing the recipe for the savoury congee base. They landed on one that uses 15 seasoning powders – a company secret – that adds a delicate umami and acts as the perfect flavour base for the toppings.



Photography: Jordan Price

The shop’s savoury congee offering includes 30 varieties with toppings such as pork, vegetarian and seafood options. They also have plans to offer even more congee variations soon, with a salted egg congee and a fish version currently in the works.

A classic Sanhe dish is preserved egg with pork mince congee, where flavours of minerality and savouriness are complex yet comforting when combined with the velvety-smooth porridge base. For a seafood option, the scallop shrimp congee has a light, delicate taste with a distinct seafood flavour.

There are also sweet congee options made with a differently seasoned base and topped with ingredients – including longans, jujubes and wolfberries (goji berries) – that are more typically used in desserts.

Sanhe translates to “three grains” from Chinese and is a nod to the restaurant’s hero dish, but the shop also offers soups and popular dim sum mainstays including steamed char siu baos (pork buns), fried turnip cake and steamed shrimp dumplings.



Photography: Jordan Price

Various side dishes from the south of China, which Ne says is known for “lighter flavours” due to the warmer climate, complement the congees and soups. Youtiao (Chinese doughnuts) can be broken up into bite-sized pieces and dropped into congee or dipped whole depending on personal preference.

The selection of soups uses ingredients often found in Chinese medicine. The cordyceps jujube wolfberry chicken soup, for example, has a slight sweetness and unique herbaceous flavour. The generous serving of cordyceps – a type of fungi often used in Chinese medicine – lends a chewy texture.

Unwrapping the steamed lotus leaf parcel a glutinous rice chicken side dish is cooked in reveals an umami-rich shiitake mushroom and chicken filling in fantastically gluey sticky rice.

In addition to the sweet congees, a popular dessert is the black sugar glutinous rice cakes. But the dish is to be eaten with caution: the centre contains piping-hot liquid black sugar encased in chewy sticky rice that has a crunchy exterior.

Sanhe Congee
185 Victoria St, West Melbourne
0483 041 822

Hours:
Mon to Fri 11am–3pm; 5pm–9pm
Sat & Sun11am–4pm; 5pm–9pm

@sanhe_congee