Gee, Congee!
February 1, 2011, 5:27 pm
Filed under: Asian, Grains

Congee is wonderful stuff. It’s basically rice porridge with a bunch of chopped stuff in bowls so you can customize it. In Asian countries it’s eaten for breakfast or a late, light supper. Around here we have it for supper and maybe lunch the next day if there’s leftovers.

I remember the first time I had it. I went to The Oriental Pearl in the Chamblee section of Atlanta with a Korean friend. She announced that my culinary world was about to expanded, and we had their excellent Saturday Dim Sum. That is a WHOLE ‘nother post…but one of the carts was a congee cart, and she said “you MUST try this” and had the person fix up a bowl of congee,with all the trimmings and I was hooked. Now, whenever we plan a trip to Atlanta, it nearly always includes Saturday Dim Sum. But that’s a WHOLE ‘nother post.
Which kind of rice you use and how it’s cooked depends on who you ask and what country they’re from. It’s as individual as chicken noodle soup. I have heard some rice cookers actually have a ‘congee’ setting, but I don’t own a rice cooker,so that’s hearsay. I like to use sweet (or sticky or glutinous) rice and cook it in chicken broth. Now, if you’re cooking regular rice as a side dish, the proportions are 1:2 rice to liquid. For congee, you’re cooking the rice much longer in more liquid so it cooks to a pulp and thus you’ll want much more liquid. Some recipes go as high as 1:13 rice to liquid. With sweet rice you’l need it a pretty high ratio, I use about 1:5 rice to liquid,and add more if I think it needs it. Sweet rice REALLY makes a thick kind of glop, but that’s what we like.

It’s all about the condiments. My kids call congee “Chinese tacos” even thought it absolutely does not resemble tacos in any way except for the bowls of chopped up stuff on the table. Everyone gets a bowl full of rice porridge, and can decorate it themselves with whatever’s set out. A family favorite is Pork Fu, this funky incredibly processed and probably terrible for you pork product that comes in little tubs and never ever spoils. It looks like fiberglass insulation (only brown instead of pink),and kind of almost dissolves in the congee. It has a distinctive porkish-soy sauce flavor and we love it. It’s not something used like Americans use most meat, in huge quantities, but rather something to be sprinkled on lightly, like you would an herb. Other additions include chopped cilantro, roasted peanuts, sliced green onions, that chicken leftover from the soft tacos Friday night, soysauce, Sriracha for kick, toasted coconut (not the sweet kind) if I have any. Sometimes I’ll reconstitute dried shiitake mushrooms and slice them thin, or chiffonade some spinach…seriously, it’s like this blank slate you can put whatever’s laying around on top of and make a custom bowl of tasty and filling goodness. It’s not bad the next day, either, just kind of gloppier.

Congee
serves 4 with leftovers, if you’re lucky

1-1/2 cups sweet (sticky or glutinous) rice (or regular old white rice,but the texture will be a bit different from what’s pictured)
8 cups chicken broth (c’mon….use homemade. it’s not hard to make…)
in a great big pot, put in the broth and rice and bring to a very low simmer. Cook for a nice long time, stirring once in a while…how long depends on what kind of rice. If you don’t want to baby it along, do this in a crock pot.

Now for the condiments-I figure about a cup of each, maybe a bit more or less depending on your taste.
Cooked chicken,shredded (I like to cook it again in a skillet to make it crispy)
Pork Fu or Moo Yong
chopped fresh cilantro
sliced green onions
chopped toasted peanuts
what else ya got? some kimchee? those teeny dried fish? fried onions or garlic how about some little bitty shrimp?
And sauces! Sriracha,soy sauce, maybe some leftover peanut sauce from the last time you made a satay?
Seriously,start with the rice base, and the rest is only limited by your imagination.

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