February 25, 2021

Rice porridge, rice soup or gruel is a hearty, warm meal commonly eaten as a savoury breakfast in East Asia. Congee is stewed white rice in water. Absolutely nothing else. If there was any left-over rice from the night before, congee breakfast is a way to stretch those last grains into another meal. But economic affluence has brought us a little further from that.

 

My mom’s congee had a meat broth and finely chopped vegetables. It was pretty much the only thing I could eat after having had some serious dental work. Japanese hospitals are known to serve the frail and elderly, congee cooked in milk and seaweed because it didn’t require chewing. Congee is basic but can also not be basic. Congee can be a culinary art or an elixir. In Chinese fine dining, you can order congee with abalone and truffles.

And, yes, it does come in a sweet version using dark sugar, goji berries and glutinous rice.

 

Cooking instructions

The basic rules are

If you are using raw rice- rice to water ratio is:

1:7 for porridge consistency

1:9 for soup consistency

 

If you are using cooked rice- rice to water ratio is:

1:6 for porridge consistency

1:8 for soup consistency

 

  • You can adjust the water as you see fit but these are pretty good starting points.
  • For best results use hot water as it helps break down the rice grains faster. Especially if you’re using cooked rice; boiling water prevents the rice from sitting at the bottom of the pot and ultimately burning.
  • Bring the rice and water to the boil for 10 minutes, mixing constantly. Then lower the heat to 30% and stir occasionally for 45 minutes.
  • Serve plain or with a pinch of salt. A little white pepper and sesame oil for finesse.

 

Variations

  1. Congee with broth/stock
    I find it a little wasteful to cook congee in only stock. But feel free to do it! My penny saving hack is to start with a 1:4 rice to water ratio and then top it up with stock to the constancy I am aiming for. Season just before serving.
  1. There is the option to smash the rice with a masher for a more gruel-like texture. It makes it easy to swallow and digest. Most Asian toddlers are weaned with congee.
  2. Option to add little bits of shredded meat near the end. Crumble a little pork mince or small slivers of chicken or beef stroganoff to give it the meaty umami.
  3. Vegetables that work well cooked into the congee are: corn kernels, carrots, celery and mushrooms (shiitake, kinoko, enokitake, button).

Here are some of my favourite toppings: chopped scallions, fried shallots, fried tofu, shredded seaweed, coriander, salty white bait and pickled mustard greens.

 

How did you do? Tag us at @grainguru.uk

Hashtags: #congee #vegetarian #grainguru

 





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