Congee (Chinese Rice Porridge)
Savory Chinese rice pudding (read: comfort food).Print
Serves: 4 to 6
Congee (which in different parts of China might also be known as jook or oyayu) is a rice porridge so popular it makes appearances at breakfast, lunch and dinner—welcome and comforting at any time of day. There are other versions of this soupy rice-based dish throughout Asia, but it’s a full on staple in many Chinese homes.
Often chicken pieces or even a whole chicken are braised in the liquid along with the rice, the meat then shredded and returned to the pot, which is delicious. Some member of the onion family is often involved, in this case garlic and scallions, which provided nice color as well as flavor. I also wanted to head in a vegetarian direction with this recipe (thus the option of vegetable broth), so it features chewy and meaty shiitake mushrooms, with the classic Chinese seasonings of fresh ginger and a bit of soy sauce. The porridge is mild, with the toppings providing the flavor (sometimes the congee is topped with the additional ingredients, and sometimes they are stirred right in – either way works beautifully). You can pass extra soy sauce at the table, but the real pleasure of this porridge is that it is a gentle comfort food, so enjoy the simplicity of the slowly cooked rice. Having said that, a drizzle of sesame oil at the end is lovely.
You are not looking for the consistency of regular rice, but rather something slightly soupy, like fairly loose oatmeal. The description may not make your mouth water, but know that millions of Chinese people are not wrong; a few bites will convince you.
- ⅔ cup rice
- 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
- 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
- 10 ounces sliced shiitake mushrooms (about 2 cups)
- ¼ cup chopped scallions, white and green parts
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon sugar
1. In a large heavy pot combine the rice, 2 cups of water and the salt, and bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Lower the heat and continue to simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes, adding about 1 cup of broth after every t10 minutes and stirring occasionally. In total you will use between 2 ½ and 3 cups of the broth, and when it gets to the desired tenderness and consistency remove if from the heat (keep in mind that it will thicken slightly as it cools)
2. Meanwhile heat the oil in a medium sized skillet. Sauté the garlic and mushrooms for about 8 minutes until the mushrooms are soft and beginning to brown. Add the scallions, ginger, soy sauce, and sugar and sauté for another 2 minutes until everything is fragrant and tender.
3. Scoop the rice into bowls and top with the mushroom mixture. Serve hot.