I woke up this morning and couldn’t think of anything I wanted to eat (say, what?). The other day, I had a really bad headache and grouched my way through the day. The next day, I had bad body aches and shuffled around at home. On the third day, I was tied to the couch and mostly slept.
Today I’m on path to recovery(!), but the only thing I can get myself to eat is congee. Congee is also known as rice porridge, jook, zhou, xi fan, or even gruel, but I’m going to stick with calling it congee because that’s how I see it most often on menus. There’re lots of varieties of it, but in its simplest form, it is rice boiled in a large amount of liquid until it softens and starts to break apart.
This is one of those dishes that I start craving whenever a cold, the flu or general moodiness hits me. It is so comforting, like the fuzzy blanket I am hidden under while I type this post in my pajamas. And like the blanket, congee will warm you right through and make you feel safe and sound. Because it is so simple in its most basic form, congee is perfect when you are sick. It’s also easy on the stomach and hydrating because of the large amounts of water used to cook it. And to top that all off, it is so easy to make for yourself even if you are tied to the couch with a box of tissues.
Chinese rice porridge can be eaten anytime of the day, but today, it was perfect for breakfast, or rather, brunch. It takes about one and a half hours to stew, because you want the rice to become fully cooked and broken down. I used brown rice, but it can be made just as easily with white rice. There is a bit more chew to it with brown rice, and it takes a little bit longer. You can also vary the toppings, but I kept it simple today with just chicken and ginger. Some recipes will call for chicken broth, but I used only water and actual chicken thighs to get my essence of the chicken (that’s what I call the magical healing powers of chicken soup)!
- 1 cup long grain rice (white or brown)
- 8 cups water
- 6 chicken thighs (bone-in)
- 1 piece of ginger about 1 inch by 1 inch (2.5 cm by 2.5 cm), peeled and sliced into large pieces
- salt, to taste
- scallions, for garnish
- Rinse and drain the rice. Pour the rice into a heavy stock pot (a cast iron pot works great).
- Add in the water, ginger and chicken thighs.
- Bring the pot to a boil then immediately turn down the heat. Allow the pot to simmer, covered, for 1-1½ hours, or until the rice has absorbed most of the liquid and has started breaking apart. It will take white rice about 1 hour, and brown rice about 1½ hours.
- Remove the chicken thighs into a bowl and allow to cool. When the chicken thighs are cool enough for you to handle, shred the meat and remove the bones.
- Add the shredded chicken back into the congee and mix well.
- Add salt, if desired.
- Serve the congee into individual bowls and garnish with green onions, if desired.