Congee is the comfort food of choice for Asians. There's various forms throughout Asia, this is the one I grew up eating and this version is super easy to make in a pinch. It's porridge, we also call it jok (rhymes with Coke but with a shorter O) and it's a go-to when I need a palate cleanser after eating too much rich, Western food, or when I'm under the weather or when it's cold outside and I need something that fills me up. Clearly it's good for whenever.
It's not sexy, a lot of non-asians are turned off by it because it looks like mush though in my opinion it looks way better than oatmeal and it's 100 times more tasty. This isn't the world's quickest breakfast, but just like making oatmeal from scratch (because it's better) it doesn't take too terribly long either. Most comfort food isn't sexy, if you think about it. Sausage gravy? Yeah. But damn if it isn't good, right?
Now, you want to do it the "authentic" way and go all out, by all means use fresh chicken or some sort of meat stock or vegetable that you like or have made from scratch. That always makes for better flavor but in the interest of time and convenience, bouillon cubes are an Asian person's best friend in the kitchen and there is absolutely no shame in using it.
Congee (serves 4 people):
- 1/2 cup of uncooked short grain or jasmine rice, washed and drained till the water is clear. ALWAYS WASH YOUR RICE when making rice.
- Half a bouillon cube. If you like things salty, add a bit more but start with half of one.
- Water: here's where it's not precise math, it depends on how thick or thin you want your porridge to be. Proportionally, I use a ratio of 1 part rice to 8, almost 10 parts water. Best bet? Start with about 5 times as much water to rice, and add water as you go based on how thick you want things to get. You want it to be much runnier than oatmeal but not watery where the rice and water are still separate.
- Minced garlic
- For additional flavor you can use fish oil or soy sauce but the bouillon cube should provide a good, mild flavor. Congee isn't supposed to be terribly salty, but it shouldn't be tasteless either.
Put all this into your pot and bring to a rapid boil, then lower heat so it continues at a low boil and cooks while you prep the meat. TIP: Keep some water nearby to add if it starts to boil down, don't let it burn. Stir so it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot.
Some times I like shredding up poached chicken or a leftover rotisserie chicken and throwing it in, most of the time I do it the way my grandma did and use minced pork:
- 1/4 lb of minced pork
- Salt & pepper to your preference
- 1 small garlic clove minced
- 1/4 teaspoon grated or minced fresh ginger (very optional)
- 1/4 tsp corn starch
- Mix this all up like you're making meatballs.
As the rice softens and cooks (and you're adding water as you go) pinch and drop in lumps of the pork and cook well - the cornstarch keeps things tender so don't worry if it feels like you're cooking for too long because the longer you cook the silkier the rice becomes. Keep stirring so no clumps of rice form.
Garnishes and finishings:
- Green onions chopped for garnishing
- Crispy shallots or crispy garlic (OR BOTH)
- Strips of ginger if you like that sort of thing
- Sesame oil
- White pepper
- Chopped fresh thai chilis or chili padi
- One egg in each bowl
Serving the congee:
Keep things super hot, ladle the porridge into your bowl on top of the raw eggs and top off with the garnishes you want to use. I like to drizzle sesame oil on there before stirring things up. The eggs will cook as you stir but not get over cooked and add to the silkiness of things.
Making things just for yourself in the morning? That's when a leftover rotisserie chicken can come in handy, or you can throw in some frozen corn kernels or just go bare bones and have porridge and one egg - it'll still fill you up and comfort your belly. I use approximately a tablespoon of uncooked rice when it's just for me and the bouillon cube/seasonings to taste.
Easy peasy! Enjoy!