What’s the Best Chinese Comfort Food? Hot Homemade Congee!

by | Feb 10, 2022 | Featured Articles, Food, How-To's | 0 comments

Growing up, I’ve had many variations of this watery Chinese porridge called “Congee” (aka, the 粥 in Chinese).  

And all of them, are memories of home and comfort.

I don’t know what it is about this dish, but the simplest of ingredients, the white rice (there are also variations of the rice used) can produce such a profound feeling when it’s mixed and cooked in the right proportions of water and toppings.

Follow this post to learn how to make this!

What makes Congee, Congee?

By definition, congee is watered rice, or gruel, or porridge.  The word originated from the root word “to nourish” (according to wiktionary).  Across many cuisines and cultures, you’ll see the variations of congee from generation to generation and country to country.  From as far as India to Japan to the South Asian Countries, they all have some variation of this dish.

So what makes congee, congee?  The most basic premise is that it’s some sort of grain (usually rice) that is cooked to a semi viscous state.  The viscosity (how fast or slow it flows as a liquid) depends on the type of congee.  

The Chinese version of congee exists in almost the same proportions as culture Regions available.  From Guangdong Province,  you’ll find the more liquid versions of the congee base and then quick boiled with preserved eggs or minced beef.  This is very typical of the congee you’ll find in Hong Kong.  And don’t forget, served with fried dough sticks!
The congee base is usually the same with variations on toppings and flavouring.  What I do is make this congee base for the kids, Cantonese-styled, and our toppings spread on the kitchen table is AMAZING!  We all like different toppings, so we’ll crack out preserved pork floss, vinegared cucumbers, spicy preserved radish, or pan fried salty peanuts!  Get creative!
In Thailand, it’s Jok (โจ๊ก, pronounced joke).  Pictured here is a fragrant Thai fish congee.  The congee base is made with rice and water, with a selection of toppings such as peanuts, fresh spring onions and parsley, and preserved salty duck eggs.  The Thai will also add spicy peppers and chilies, which I didn’t opt for.  Too exciting for me in the mornings!
In Taiwan, it’s also called Jook (粥) and the congee base is similar to that of the white congee in Hong Kong, but the toppings are out of this world!  Here I’ve got pork floss (there are so many beautiful variations of this), preserved and flavoured seaweed, preserved salty duck eggs, root vegetables such as lotus root and even yams, and all sorts of preserved vegetables such as cucumbers, and fresh cilantro, baby celery (a Taiwanese favourite), and spring green onions.
And in Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, Mongolia, they all have their own variations of congee.  I love trying all of them as I travel and it’s truly amazing how one dish has evolved in so many ways through the cultures!

Making Congee

There are 2 basic ways to make congee.
  1. You make the congee base (with simply rice and water) and then spice it up
  2. You spice it up first and mix in the rice to create this blended, beautiful congee concoction

In the recipes below, you’ll find both variations.  Try them both and see how you like them.  It really depends on what you feel like eating.  If you’re having side dishes, like meats and vegetables, the congee is usually served plain (rice and water).  If you’re eating the congee like a meal, it usually has all the works inside.  

There’s no right or wrong to making or eating congee!  And the type of rice you use, can also vary.  I’ve used long grain rice before, round little rice, brown rice, purple rice, even Japanese rice.  They all work!

 

What’s involved?

Prep time: 5 mins

Cook time: 25 mins

Total time: 30 mins

Serves: 8 bowls

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of rice
  • 2 L of water
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • Whatever toppings you want

To Stir or Not To Stir?

Ah, the age old question of whether you stir your congee or not.

From my experience, it depends on the type of congee you’re making.

For example, I also make the Chiu Chou style of congee where it’s got a thick base layer of congee and beautiful rice soup on top.  In this congee, you don’t stir AT ALL.  It’s basically, a quick boil for 20 minutes, turn off the heat, let it rest for 30 minutes to “bake”  and settle and serve.  My mom is Chiu Chou, so I’ll hear her repeat this technique to me many times over!

For the Cantonese-styled congee, I will mix.  I will stir fry the ingredients first, add in the rice and water and mix it around, ensuring that the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom.  Have your heat on medium to medium-high for that control.  I find when you max out the heat, it becomes harder to manage and this sticky congee to the bottom of the pot happens.

If you’re also using a thermal pot, insta-pot, or a pressure cooker, stirring is also suggested.   

 

CHECK OUT SOME OF OUR CONGEE RECIPES

POST YOUR FAVOURITE RECIPES BELOW IN THE COMMENTS!  WE WOULD LOVE TO HEAR THEM!

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