Congee is a type of rice porridge that can be found on breakfast, lunch, and dinner tables all over Asia. Despite its many variations it can be recognized by a thicker texture. Easy to consume and digest, it is the Asian equivalent of homemade chicken noodle soup – perfect for sick days or lazy days, any time of the year.
It’s fitting I had a hankering for it today. Eleven years ago today, my Mother passed away. As a toddler and child, I was a picky eater. Fortunate for me, Mom had all the patience in the word – she’d reheat my meals and lovingly spoon-feed me while I sang, danced, and played at the dinner table. (That gene must have skipped a generation because, lord knows, Rice Kernel is not the recipient of such tolerance at meal times.) Rice porridge, infused with stock, bits of meat and finely-chopped vegetables, was comfort that my Mother happily doled out when I was feeling ill and in need of some nourishment. It’s one of a handful of vivid cooking memories I recall with my Mom. One that I am happy to revive for my slightly-under-the-weather little boy.
2 cup long-grain white rice (or brown rice, or 1 1/2 cups rice and 1/2 cup millet)
1 tsp kosher salt
6 cups liquid (water, chicken stock)
Fish, Chicken, or Ground Beef (optional)
Finely-chopped scallion and ginger for serving
- In a sieve, rinse rice under cold water and let drain.
- Put rice, 6 cups liquid, and salt into a 4-quart saucepan.* (See note below.) Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, partially covered, until the rice takes on the consistency of porridge, about 1 1⁄2 hours.
- If adding fish, add into porridge 15 minutes before the porridge is finished. Cook through and carefully flake the fish before serving.
- If adding chicken, steam or bake dark or white meat chicken and shred. Add shredded chicken before serving.
- If using ground beef, cook in a saute pan, breaking up the beef into small chunks. Season with salt and pepper. Add beef and drippings into the porridge before serving.
- Top with scallion, ginger, white pepper.
Note: Soaking the rice overnight supposedly helps create a smooth porridge. Some also believe that if you add a handful of cooked rice to the raw rice, it makes for an even starchier consistency. If you prefer a heavier consistency, reduce the amounts of liquid.