Rice Porridge to Heal Your Winter Woes (also delicious for healthy people!)
Congee is an easy to digest soup which is served for breakfast across Asia. It’s also great for convalescing from an illness, sensitive stomach times, or baby’s early food. You can sometimes find it on the menu at a Chinese, Vietnamese, or Korean restaurant, but not as often as better-known soups like the Vietnamese pho. It’s fairly easy to make on your own, as long as you have time to spend cooking the rice until it falls apart. This time is fairly unmonitored, making it a perfect cold winter afternoon project. It’s warm, nourishing, and can easily be spiced up or left bland, depending on your preference and state of health. The amount of rice seems tiny and the amount of liquid excessive when you’re used to just making rice as a side dish. Trust me–the rice grains will swell quite a bit, and you want this dish to be a bit watery. I’ve made this recipe with all types of meat (beef, pork, chicken, fish) as well as tofu. Bear in mind that tofu is very cold in nature. It is best to counteract this coldness with something spicy, like hot peppers or ginger. The length of the rice grain and brown vs white rice will determine initial cook time of the rice–brown takes longer, but is more nutritious.
The easy way: (feeds 2-4)
1/4 cup rice
4-6 cups water or stock or a mixture of both (bone broth is great in this recipe–make your own here
1/2-1 lb of meat of your choice, cut into bite-sized pieces
For the marinade:
1-2 tbsp rice vinegar
1-2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1-2 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
1-2 tbsp oyster sauce
~3 thinly sliced scallions or 1/8-1/4 cup thinly sliced onion
Broccoli, carrot, daikon, zucchini, mushrooms, or other appealing veg cut into bite-sized pieces
Greens such as chard, kale, or collards cut into this strips
1-2 tbsp hot sauce (This can be used in the marinade as well as for spicing up individual bowls upon serving. I use something with Asian roots, like sriracha, but you could use sambal oelek, gochujang or other preferred brand)
1 tbsp each minced garlic, ginger, onion, and/or shallot, sautéed till slightly brown and crispy for garnish. I use peanut oil or untoasted sesame oil.
Bring the rice to a boil in 4 cups of water or stock, then cover and reduce to a simmer, adding more liquid as needed. It should be on the liquid side (it is soup, after all) but make sure to adjust to your preference (I like mine thinner than oatmeal.). Stir frequently to prevent the rice from sticking (I haven’t found this to be a big problem.). I use brown rice (short or long grain is fine) and cook it alone for 2-3 hours, until it starts coming apart. Once the rice is cooking, stir or whisk together the marinade ingredients and add your beef/chicken/fish/pork/tofu. Cover and shake or stir once or twice if you remember. When the rice starts falling apart, add meat and veggies and cook 5-10 min depending on doneness preference and the size of your pieces. Add any of the marinade condiments to taste and garnish with sautéed garlic, ginger, onion and/or shallots if desired (they do add a nice crunch and a burst of flavor). If your digestion has been a bit off or any of the flavorings seem a bit strong for your current state, simply omit them. Bland congee is a wonderful healing food.