What is Congee?
My History With Congee
My daughter first introduced me to congee. I watched her make it and ate too much of it. It was that good--simple and very tasty. I was told this had been labeled as a poor man's diet, and I have read it's considered a breakfast meal in some countries. Even though I am half Asian, I have not experienced everything relative to my cultural descent. This dish, however, is on my permanent list of recipes. Prepare it as a main meal or a side dish; it's terrific comfort food. My mother was Japanese and although I was raised on American cuisine, when other families were eating mashed potatoes and gravy, we were having rice and gravy.
The Real History of Congee
First, remember rice is the most common food of Asian culture and in many instances it is consumed two to three times a day. Just as there are different variations of congee in Asia, there are also different names of this soup dependent on which country is being referenced. In China, for example, this rice dish is called congee or jook. It can be spiced up however is preferred and vegetables such as diced cabbage can be added. This recipe dates back centuries, too, for medicinal purposes dependent on the added ingredient. In Japan, the soup is called Okayu.
Residents of Hong Kong, Philippines and Taiwan flavor their rice soup with ingredients from the sea. The Japanese include mushrooms and Vietnamese use beef and fish sauce. Whatever the ingredient that is traditionally added, this rice soup, or porridge, is a real comfort food.
My Recipe of Choice
1 cup long grain rice
9 cups of water or chicken broth, or you can use half broth and water
Bring water or broth to a boil with rice. Turn heat down so it simmers until it becomes thick like an oatmeal or porridge consistency. If you have never made this before, you might look at it and think, “I am so not eating this,” but you have to trust me--it is good. If you have a lid on your pan, you will want to angle it so it doesn’t boil over. This process can take one to two hours.
What To Do While the Rice Is Boiling
1 lb. roll of plain pork sausage
1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh ginger
2 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. hoisin sauce
While the rice is boiling, brown your sausage. Once the sausage is cooked, drain all the grease returning the sausage to your skillet. Stir in your fresh ginger and if you don't have any, you can substitute the powder form. Then, stir in the soy sauce and hoisin sauce. The oyster sauce can be drizzled on top. Keep in mind, too, we each have different taste buds and we like to add more of one ingredient and less of another, so fashion this according to your taste.
Once the rice is done, it will be thick in consistency. While it is cooking, you want to manage stirring it often so it doesn't stick to the bottom. Once it is at the desired consistency, ladle some into a bowl. Then you want to spoon some of your sausage mixture on top of the rice soup and not forgetting to drizzle the oyster sauce.
Other Ingredients You Can Add For Flavoring or Coloring
Chopped green onion
Note: You can also use other meats such as ground turkey, pork or beef. As indicated earlier, some cultures use seafood, i.e., shrimp.
If you have never experienced this type of meal before, whatever variation you try, I hope you have fun with it and enjoy it as much as we do!