Because no single way of eating works for everybody.
It’s theoretically springtime, but the weather here is still chilly, still damp. It’s time to put on a pot of congee, for that warm, cozy feeling.
You don’t have to be Chinese, Vietnamese, or Japanese to love this stuff. Congee, sometimes called juk or jook, is rice porridge, usually savoury rather than sweet, cooked long enough to make a hot, comforting kind of thick soup. And if that idea doesn’t really turn you on, consider this: you can make it taste like absolutely anything on the face of the earth.
My husband, whose family came from China to Canada before he was born, would disagree, because he prefers his congee with Chinese-style garnishes. But I remind him that I learned to put crushed barbecue-flavoured potato chips in my congee from his mother – and she was from China, so she had cred. I know where my husband is coming from, though. For him, congee was a childhood comfort food, and he likes it best the way he first enjoyed it. And also, I think he’s not too crazy about barbecue chips!
Below is the recipe for basic congee. It’s a blank slate on which you can write anything you want. After the basic recipe, have a look at the variations and ideas you can use with congee. You’ll likely agree that congee has international possibilities its inventors never would have considered. But you should. ‘Cause they’re tasty. 🙂
3/4 cup long grain rice
9 cups water, or half soup stock and half water
1 teaspoon salt, if not using soup stock
1. Bring liquid and rice to a boil in a large pot.
2. When boiling, lower heat to medium-low. Cover pot with lid, leaving a little room for steam to escape.
3. Cook, stirring occasionally, until congee is thick and creamy, about 1 to 1 1/4 hours.
4. Add salt, desired seasonings, and cooked meat if desired. Serve with garnishes of your choice.
Now that you’ve got your basic congee – your blank slate – here are some ideas for making it nutritious and interesting. Traditional Chinese garnishes include green onions, soy sauce, shredded meat, and peanuts. But read on… there’s a whole world out there. And this doesn’t even touch on the possibility of dessert congee!
Pulled pork congee
Barbecued chicken congee
Minced pork congee
Mapo tofu congee
Curry congee (Tikka Masala, Madras curry, whatever kind you like)
Bacon and tomato congee
Garlic shrimp congee
Shredded chicken and corn congee
Ham, pineapple, oregano and tomato congee (Hawaiian pizza congee!)
Sweet and sour pork/ chicken congee
Sausage marinara congee
Jambalaya congee (congee serves as the rice component)
Honey garlic pork congee
Chili con carne congee (no beans)
Scrambled egg and sausage/ bacon congee
Mixed grill congee, ie. whatever leftover meat bits you’ve got in the fridge
Creole congee (chicken, shrimp, or both)
Sliced beef congee
Sliced marinated Korean beef bulgogi congee
Shredded pork with pickled Chinese vegetables congee
Diced chicken with vegetables and almonds congee
Ginger beef congee
Hot dog congee
Egyptian lentil stew congee
Mixed leftovers and hot sauce congee (’cause everything’s better with hot sauce)
Buffalo wings congee (it is a natural progression)
Teriyaki chicken or beef congee
Beef, tomato, onion and ginger congee
Mixed mushroom congee
Beef and mushroom congee
Steak and kidney congee
Chicken a la king congee with mushrooms and pimentos
Roasted red pepper and balsamic vinegar congee, with or without rosemary
Grilled mushroom and sherry vinegar congee
Pickled octopus congee
Roasted garlic and artichoke heart congee
Hoisin chicken and gai lan congee
Beef and peaches congee
Duck and apricot congee
Chinese-style barbecued goose congee
Char siu pork congee
Lemon chicken congee
Szechuan eggplant congee
Shredded pork with garlic and ginger congee
Thai basil beef congee
Coconut curry congee
Curry leaf and meat congee
Any more ideas?