Oh, congee. How I love congee. Congee (or jook, a Chinese rice porridge) is one of those dishes that I never knew existed until I moved to St. Louis for college and became a regular at a “real” Chinese food restaurant. Then in New York, Geoff and I had our favorite place to order congee in Chinatown (Big Wong King) where I discovered that it’s traditional to dip sweet (ngau lei sou) and savory (youtiao) fried dough (Chinese doughnuts!) into steaming bowls of congee. Heaven. So, so, so good.
Geoff, of course, has a whole different relationship with congee. He grew up eating excellent congee, both homemade and at amazing Toronto Chinese food restaurants (Congee Queen is one of his family’s long-time favorites). And it’s the dish that his mother would make whenever he was feeling under-the-weather — a warm, comforting, gentle-on-the-tummy porridge, Chinese comfort food at it’s best.
Traditionally, Geoff is the congee cooker in our family. He has several shortcut methods: 1) A pressure cooker version that makes a mess, and 2) A frozen rice version that takes some planning ahead. But when Geoff wasn’t feeling well last weekend, it was up to me to make him a batch of congee.
I started looking through my cookbooks for a recipe when I heard him mutter from the bed, “1 cup of rice and 10 cups of water.”
“What?” I said, coming to a halt and staring at him. “What did you say?”
“It’s just 1 cup of rice and 10 cups of water,” he repeated, a little louder.
Apparently that’s all there is to it; a cup of jasmine rice (well rinsed of course, Geoff reminded me) and 10 cups of water. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and let simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally and adding more water if it seems to be getting too thick. Amazing.
This congee is a blank slate for tons of different add-ins and toppings. First of all, you can sub in chicken stock for some of the water to add more flavor, and top each serving with a drizzle of soy sauce and sesame oil, plus sliced scallions. You can crack an egg straight into the pot and mix it in, so it cooks in the hot porridge. More add-ins could include garlic, ginger, cooked meats (here’s a good recipe for cooking chicken in the congee), ground peanuts… But at its essence this dish is just rice and water.
I did as instructed and my homemade congee turned out beautifully. I just wish I had made the Chinese doughnuts to go with it! Stay tuned!
- 1 cup of jasmine rice
- 10 cups of water
- Optional add-ins (chicken stock, an egg, ginger, garlic, cooked meats, ground peanuts)
- Rinse jasmine rice well in several changes of water, until the water stays clear.
- Put rice and water into a large pot over high heat. When the water comes to a boil turn down to low and let it simmer for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally and adding more water if the congee becomes too thick. Don't let it burn on the bottom!
- If adding an egg crack it into the congee and stir until cooked. Serve this porridge hot with the rest of the optional add-ins.
- Serve with Stir-Fried Gai Lan to get your veggies.