What is Congee?
Congee, rice porridge, rice soup —whatever you want to call it, it's a prevalent food in Asian countries. Congee (粥, pronounced jook in Cantonese or zhou in Mandarin) has been popular in China for thousands of years. This congee recipe is very simple because it is made by boiling rice until it becomes a porridge or reaches the desired consistency. Today, in Chinese cuisine, congee is often eaten for breakfast.
Congee is easy to make at home and requires ingredients that you may already have: water and rice. It comes in many varieties: chicken, beef, pork, and fish are common ingredients, while preserved eggs, veggies, and Chinese herbs may be added to the congee to enrich its flavor.
Congee has been my father’s favorite food for as long as I can remember. I still remember that whenever he came back home from a business trip, congee was the first thing he asked my mom to make. I guess that congee was a symbol of a taste of home to him.
You can also make congee with brown rice, but this takes a little longer to cook. Congees made with brown rice have more fiber than white rice varieties and are higher in iron than white rice congees. The resulting dish is like oatmeal in texture — smooth and creamy, but not as thick as cream of wheat or grits. Congee is like oatmeal, but it has a much higher water content and much less starch than oatmeal.
What Chinese People Believe About Congee
In China, congee is considered food for the sick due to its softness and bland taste and is also known as a "cure-all" because it's believed to have healing properties due to its high starch content.
This nutritious dish contains complex carbohydrates that are broken down slowly during digestion and provide long-lasting energy without causing spikes in blood sugar levels as simple carbohydrates do.
Chinese people believe it suits your health and that congee helps the body digest food more effectively because of its high starch content and slow cooking time.
Stovetop Congee Recipe
One of the best things about congee is that someone doesn’t have to be an expert cook to prepare it — just throw rice into a pot and let it simmer until the rice breaks down into a thicker consistency.
Congee can be made using a saucepan or a rice cooker. The best way to make congee is on the stovetop. Rice varieties vary in cooking times, but most will take about 40 minutes so in a saucepan. If you decide to go for a rice cooker, leave it uncovered for a better result. Whatever method you choose, keep in mind to stir occasionally. Congee is best suited to warmth, so don't wait too long before eating it.
You can also use this recipe as a base for other types of porridges like bean congee and chicken congee.
The ratio of rice and water
For this recipe, the ratio of white rice and water is one cup of rice to nine cups of water. This ratio ensures enough liquid to cook all the starch out of your rice while keeping the grains intact and fluffy.
Putting more liquid in the congee will make its consistency softer. Less liquid means more firmness and less flavor from what's added later. The longer you cook congee, the thicker it becomes.
What You Eat with Congee
Congee is usually served plain or with toppings such as eggs, meat, and vegetables. You can customize your congee by adding other ingredients like meat, seafood, or vegetables to make it heartier. You can also season it with soy sauce and ginger. Fresh herbs like cilantro and green onions will add an extra layer of flavor to your congee. Add them at the end and stir in until they're wilted before serving. Long to short, people can mix their tastes by adding these condiments according to their preferences.
If you have soy sauce, sesame oil, and chili oil on hand (or just one of those), that'll be a good start. Soy sauce can add saltiness to your congee and give it a nice brown color too. Toasted sesame seeds are another classic addition that brings great flavor and texture; they're also an excellent source of calcium and iron.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Soy sauce
- Sesame oil
- Chili oil
- Thinly sliced green onions
- Fresh ginger strips
- Fermented tofu （ 豆腐乳）
- Scallion pancake
- Stir-fried Chinese greens (like Bok Choy or Chinese Spinach)
- Fried peanuts
- Pork floss （ 肉松）
- Preserved mustard greens ( 碎米芽菜“sui mi ya cai”)
- Hard-boiled egg
- Salted duck egg
- Century eggs ( 皮蛋 “pi dan” preserved duck eggs)
- Cooked chicken, pork, or beef
- Fried garlic and shallots
- Pickled vegetables
- Chinese bread stick ( 油条“you tiao”)
Topping options for vegetarian Congee
Vegetarians may substitute any form of tofu, mushroom, vegetables, or nuts for any meat in your congee.
Mushrooms (shiitake and oyster) are a popular addition to congee because they absorb the flavor of whatever soup they're cooked in. If you want to add mushrooms to your congee, sauté them before adding them to your congee so that they don't absorb too much liquid and become too soft while cooking.
Fried and roasted peanuts can also add more protein to your congee. You can add some red dates to it to enhance its flavor and if you still want to sweeten it, you can add some sugar or honey.
You can keep leftover congee in the refrigerator for up to five days.
Simply reheat leftover congee on the stove, adding more water or stock to thin it out. It becomes thicker while it sits. In the microwave, thin out the porridge by adding a little bit of water.
Congee is one of the simplest, most comforting dishes to make, and is also very nutritious and filling. If you like Chinese food, chances are good that you'll also like congee. Try it and let me know what you think. Happy cooking.😊
- 1 cup short-grain uncooked white rice
- 9 cups water
- Rinse the rice thoroughly and drain it well.
- Add the rice to a medium or large pot with 9 cups of water.
- Bring the pot to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and cover the pot partially, leaving some room for steam to escape. Slow simmer until all the water has been absorbed and the rice is tender about 40 minutes. Stir occasionally.
- Cover and let stand for 5 minutes before serving
- Garnish with your favorite toppings and enjoy!