I’m sick today :( Actually I’ve had a cold for the past three or four days, so I’ve been drinking a lot of ginger tea and sitting in bed watching dramas and reading books, which isn’t so bad :) But I thought this would be a good time to share a recipe for one of my favorite “sick-people foods” that I’ve been eating a lot of lately, called congee. Maybe you know it as porridge or juk. It’s just rice that has been cooked with a lot of water to make a creamy sort of thick rice stew.
I like to season mine with salt and top it with green onions, shiitake mushrooms, peas, roasted seaweed, and black and white sesame seeds
In China, congee (粥) is known as as the ideal nourishing food for really little children and older people, because it’s easy to digest. So if you are sick and having stomach problems, or if you’re one of those people who finds it hard to eat something right when you wake up, this might be a good recipe to try. Congee is also great for people who are trying to lose weight, because it’s made of a small amount of rice and a large amount of water, so it fills you up and kind of tricks your body into thinking you ate a big bowl of rice when really you just ate about two spoonfuls.
Although you can eat it plain with just a little salt, it’s really fun to add your own combinations of vegetables and seasonings to the porridge.
I’ve eaten seafood congee at dim sum (it had abalone, shrimp, mushrooms, water chestnuts, and fresh herbs in it and we seasoned our bowls of it with salt and soy sauce) and there are so many other flavorful toppings you can add to customize your congee, like:
roasted seaweed strips
chopped green onions
chopped fresh cilantro
a hard-boiled egg
minced dried pork
Si Chuan peppercorns
black sesame seeds
white sesame seeds
You can also use chicken stock instead of water to cook the porridge for extra flavor. I sprinkled some powdered beef bullion and crushed Si Chuan peppercorns on top of my congee as a seasoning, added slivers of cabbage and carrot, then a few shakes of red pepper flakes and sesame seeds on top.
And although congee is traditionally savory, you can experiment with sweet toppings and fruits like:
white sesame seeds
adzuki beans (sweet red beans)
I even tried a new idea today: maple syrup and walnuts (a really “western” kind of interpretation of congee)!
It was actually very good. I always used to pour in a little maple syrup when I ate cream of rice, and congee is a sort of similar idea to cream of rice (or cream of wheat, grits, etc.)
Making congee is really simple. All I do is boil the rice and water together, then turn the heat to low and let it simmer while I go do something else. You can stir it every once in a while, and usually it will be done in about two hours. This recipe makes four rice-bowl-sized portions.
Congee (Rice Porridge)
½ cup short-grain rice
salt to taste
whatever toppings you want
Rinse the rice and add it together with 4 ½ cups water in a pot.
Heat over high heat until it is boiling, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for two hours or until the congee has a thick, porridge-like consistency.
Season with salt, serve in rice bowls and add the toppings you choose.