As a child growing up in Beijing, white plain congee was just as common on our dinner table as steamed rice. It’s frequently served as a side dish to accompany other major courses like stir-fried vegetables or braised beef. Congee serves as a half-soup, half-starchy staple, in my opinion.
Because a typical Chinese dinner consists of three courses plus a soup with a starchy base of rice, noodle, bread etc. We want to wash down the dry food with something liquid. Thus the soup is extremely vital. Congee is a simple and inexpensive way to add soup to your meal. The plain congee is a simple and humble dish, usually consisting only of rice and water.
What is Congee?
Congee, sometimes known as conjee, is a rice porridge or gruel popular in Asian countries. It can be eaten plain, usually offered with side dishes, or it can be served with meat, fish, seasonings, and flavourings, usually served as a meal on their own, especially for sick people. Congee has as many names as there are ways to make it, but they all have in common that it’s a thick porridge of rice that’s mostly dissolved after being cooked in water for a long time.
How to Make Congee?
What kind of rice should I use? Short grain rice is the best rice to use for congee, and it gives the dish a creamy, starchy texture that I enjoy. You can also use medium grain, which yields a similar outcome. I would steer clear of long grain rice (including jasmine rice). The outcome is goopy and mushy, with more starch released into the water and the grain breaking down, but the texture is much thinner.
There are two ways to cook. Congee is easy to make, albeit it does take longer than steamed rice. You can cook it in a conventional pot on the stovetop or an Instant Pot (or pressure cooker). My personal preference is to make congee in the Instant Pot, and it is more hands-off and produces greater results. Using an Instant Pot will not save you time. Although you only use a quarter of the cooking time (25 minutes instead of 1 hour), adding and releasing the pressure takes some time. As a result, you’ll spend the same time on the stovetop.
The biggest benefit of utilizing an Instant Pot (or another pressure cooker) is that it requires relatively little attention during the one-hour cooking time. Unlike the stovetop approach, where you must keep an eye on it to prevent it from spilling and scorching the bottom, this method does not require you to keep an eye on it.
Furthermore, if you want a slightly starchier texture, pressure-cooked congee is the way to go. You’ll need to rinse the rice before cooking it, cover it with water and cook it until it’s fully cooked. When it comes to congee, everyone has a favourite texture. If I’m going to serve it as a soup, I prefer it thin and runny, and I’ll go for medium-thick if I want it a little more noticeable with a few toppings.
On the other hand, you may prefer your congee to be thick and comforting, similar to a bowl of creamy oatmeal. I gave three variations in the recipe below: thick, medium-thick, and runny.
Thick congee – Use 4 cups of water in the Instant Pot or 8 cups of water on the stovetop for 1/2 cup of rice, and it will produce a creamy oatmeal-like texture.
Medium-thick congee Use 5 cups of water in the Instant Pot and 10 cups of water on the stovetop for 1/2 cup of rice.
Runny congee – Use 6 cups of water in the Instant Pot and 12 cups of water on the stovetop for 1/2 cup of rice; it has a soupy texture that goes well with heavier foods.
If you’re utilizing the stovetop approach, pay close attention near the end of the cooking process. The congee will thicken significantly at the finish, and you’ll need to stir it constantly to keep the bottom from scorching. At the end of the cooking process, stir regularly, especially if you’re making thick congee (just like when cooking oatmeal.
- a quarter cup of dried shrimp
- Two tblsp scallops (dry)
- 2 tbsp. safflower oil (any oil would do)
- Two tblsp. ginger, minced
- Three garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 pound shiitake mushrooms, cut to a thickness of 1/4 inch
- 1 cup rice (jasmine
- Six c. vegetable stock
- 3 quarts liquid
- 1 tsp salt, plus salt to taste
- scallions, sliced
- shallots fried
- sticks of fried dough
- oil of chilli
- Using water, rinse the dried shrimp and scallops. After that, soak them for 30 minutes in a bowl with 2/3 cup of water. The scallops and shrimp should have plumped up a little by now. Once you’ve finished soaking, you can drain or conserve the water. I normally reserve the water and make the oatmeal with it.
- Drain the water after rinsing the rice once.
- In a medium-high-heat pot, heat the oil. Cook for 30 seconds, or until the minced ginger and garlic becomes aromatic. Toss in the rehydrated shrimp and scallops. Break the scallops apart using the point of a wooden spoon or spatula. It’s not necessary to be overly exact here. Sauté for another minute with the mushrooms and rice.
- Pour the broth and water into the pot with care. Add the salt and whisk to combine. Covered, bring the broth to a boil. Then reduce to a low heat setting and cover the pot. I normally move the pot to a smaller burner and cook the congee on low heat. Allow for an hour of simmering time, stirring occasionally.
- Check the congee after an hour to see if the consistency is to your taste. I like to keep the pot uncovered for 15 minutes to cool and thicken the porridge. If a short film forms on top of the congee, stir everything together before serving. If required, season the congee with extra salt.
- Congee should be served in bowls. Toppings include sliced scallions, fried shallots, chilli oil, and sliced fried dough sticks.
Why is Congee so Good for you?
Congee is used in medicine to enhance good health and digestion. Because this simple porridge is easily eaten and assimilated, it harmonizes digestion while also supplementing blood and qi, according to TCM (life energy). Congee can reduce inflammation while also nourishing the immune system. Steamed rice has a higher water-to-rice ratio than congee. Congee provides 65 calories and 7.5 grammes of carbohydrates per 100 grammes.
White rice has 140 calories and 31 grammes of carbs in the same amount. Brown rice or whole-grain should make homemade congee because they are healthier. Replace one meal per day with congee to lower your overall caloric consumption. If a typical meal used to be 650 calories and your congee are 150 calories, your 500-calorie daily shortfall will result in a weekly weight loss of one pound. This is dependent on the issues and objectives you have. A bowl of congee can be used to replace one of your daily meals. The best time to eat is between 7 and 11 a.m. when the spleen and stomach are most active.
What Kind of Rice is Used in Congee?
Many different types of rice can be used to make congee. If you want, use plain white long-grain rice; jasmine rice is also popular. Other long-grain rice kinds, such as basmati, can be used to make congee, as can short-grain rice. In a pot, combine the basmati rice and the chicken stock. Bring the stock to a boil, then lower to low heat to keep it warm. Cook for 45-60 minutes with the lid on. The texture of the mixture should be porridge-like. Long grain rice is also used in jook, while short-grain rice is okay.
While jook is primarily made with water, congee is made with broth or broth and water in most Southeast Asian countries, including Vietnam, Cambodia, and the Philippines. Combine the stock, rice, salt, and ginger in a large pot. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer after bringing it to a boil. Stir the rice occasionally to prevent it from clumping or sticking to the bottom. Cook for about 1 hour, or until the congee has thickened and become creamy. Season with salt to taste. Serve the congee immediately.
What’s the Difference Between Porridge and Congee?
So, while congee is a form of rice porridge, not all rice porridge is congee-like, just as not all squares are squares. Jook takes it further: It’s the English translation of rice porridge’s Cantonese name. The word ‘congee’ is derived from the Tamil word ‘kanji,’ meaning ‘boilings,’ which was anglicized from ‘canje’ by Portuguese colonists in Goa in the 16th century. Congee’s importance in Asian cuisine is as long as its history. Congee, by any name, is a popular dish in Asia.
According to my study, congee is normally cooked to a soupier texture than risotto. However, all of the photographs in the recipes I looked at showed distinct grains of rice (basically the same thing as risotto). Constipation can be relieved by eating congee, and it is a miracle worker when it comes to elimination. It softens the fibre, making it incredibly relaxing and allowing it to travel easily through your digestive tract. Soak the rice for one to three hours in water. After soaking, the rice will get softer, and it cuts down the time it takes to cook the rice until it disintegrates into a smooth, creamy texture.
Is it Possible to Reheat the Congee?
Transfer any remaining congee to a big container with a tight-fitting lid to keep it fresh. Refrigerate for up to 3-4 days in advance. To reheat, add the necessary amount of congee in a microwave-safe bowl or saucepot with a little amount of boiling water and heat until thoroughly warm. Yes, you can reheat it by adding 3/4 cup of water to the porridge and heating it over medium heat for around 5 minutes, and it will be ready to eat. You can also pour hot water into the jar, close the lid, and stir the porridge after 5 minutes.
Keep leftover congee in the refrigerator in an airtight container. It will last up to five days in the fridge. Reheat the congee in the microwave or on the stovetop until warm. To loosen up the porridge, add a bit of additional liquid as needed. Leftover porridge can be reheated in a skillet or microwave. It will thicken as it sits, so you’ll need to add a bit of extra liquid (water or milk) and stir it well before reheating it. Cool immediately and store in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 2 days, reheating only once.
Is Congee Good the Next Day?
Remove the pan from the heat, season with salt, and spoon the soup into serving cups. Serve immediately after adding your chosen toppings. Porridge can be refrigerated for 2 to 4 days if left over. To reheat, add more liquid and heat on the stovetop or in the microwave until it reaches your desired consistency. Remove the pot from the heat, cover it, and let it aside for about 15 minutes if the congee isn’t thick enough.
In a medium-sized microwave-safe bowl, combine 1/3 cup sticky rice and 2 cups boiling water; do not cover the bowl (or it may spill), and microwave for 1 minute, or until the rice and water has boiled. It’s fine to use cold water, but it will take longer to boil. 2. Microwave on high for 10 minutes, without covering the bowl.
Congee is commonly flavoured with fresh onions, cilantro, soy sauce, or fish sauce. As shown in the photos, fried shallots or chile oil can also be added. In Chinese restaurants, congee is almost always served with fried dough sticks that are crunchy on the exterior and spongy on the inside. In Mandarin-speaking countries, fried flatbread is referred to as oil sticks.
In Cantonese-speaking areas, it’s called as, which means “oil-fried ghosts. I got that expression. Frozen fried dough is widely available in Asian supermarkets. Before reheating, they don’t need to be defrosted. Bake it on a baking sheet at 375°F (190°C) for 5 minutes. Then turn off the heat but leave the fried dough sticks in the oven to keep warm. As a result of the remaining heat, the fried dough will continue to crisp.