Traditionally known as hsi-fan or rice water, congee is eaten throughout China as a breakfast food. It is a thin porridge or gruel consisting of a handful of rice simmered in five to six times the amount of water. Although rice is the most common grain for congees, millet, spelt or other grains are sometimes used. Cook the rice and water together in a covered pot for four to six hours on warm, or use the lowest flame possible; a crockpot works very well for congees. It is better to use too much water than too little, and the longer the congee cooks, the more powerful it becomes.
This simple rice soup is easily digested and assimilated, tonifies the blood and qi, harmonizes the digestion and is demulcent, and nourishing. It is also useful for increasing a nursing mother’s supply of milk. The liquid can be strained from the porridge to drink as a supplement for infants and for serious conditions.
Other therapeutic properties may be added to the congee by cooking appropriate vegetables, grains, herbs or meats in with the rice water. Since rice itself strengthens the Spleen-Pancreas digestive centre, other foods added to a rice congee become more completely assimilated, and their properties are therefore enhanced. Listed below are some of the more common rice based congees and their specific effects.
- Aduki Bean – Diuretic, curative for edema and gout
- Carrot – Digestive aid, eliminates flatulence
- Celery – Cooling in summer, benefits the large intestine
- Water Chestnut – Cooling to viscera, benefits digestive organs
- Duck or Carp Broth – Reduces edema and swelling
- Fennel – harmonizes the stomach, expels gas, cures hernia
- Ginger – warming and antiseptic to viscera, used for deficient COLD digestive weakness: diarrhea, anorexia, vomiting and indigestion
- Leek – warming to viscera, good for chronic diarrhea
- Mustard – Expels phlegm, clears stomach congestion
- Black Pepper – expels gas, recommended for pain in bowels
- Poppy Seed – relieves vomiting and benefits the large intestine
- Purslane – detoxifies, recommended for rheumatism and swellings (phlegm)
- Radish – Digestant, benefits the diaphragm
- Pickled Radish – benefits digestion and blood
- Taro Root – nutritious, aids the stomach, builds blood
Use 1 1/2 cups of uncooked rice, unless you already have some cooked rice in your fridge. You’ll have to extend the cooking time to 1-1/2 to 2 hours with uncooked rice, but you will be rewarded with a bowl of yummy goodness that is soothing both spiritually and physically. There are so many things that you can add to congee that add both flavour and texture to the final dish. You can refer to the list above or see what you have in the fridge and be creative!
Time: About 1 hour
Makes: 4 servings
- 2 cups cooked white rice
- 5 cups water
- 1/2 pound chicken bones or 2 chicken thighs
- 3, 1/4-inch-thick slices fresh ginger
- 1 plump clove garlic, smashed
- 1 green onion, tied into a knot
- 1/4 of a whole yellow or red onion
- Soy sauce, salt, and white pepper to taste
- Sesame oil and/or kecap manis for drizzling (optional)
- Shredded chicken (from the thighs above or leftovers)
- Green onions, chopped
- Fried garlic
- Fried shallots
- In a medium pot, combine the rice, water, chicken bones, ginger, garlic, green onion, onion and bring to a boil over high heat. Skim off any scum or foam that rises to the surface.
- Reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally so that the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of pot and burn.
- If using chicken thighs, remove them after 20 minutes and scrape off the meat and shred or chop. Set the meat aside and return the bones to the pot. Continue cooking for another 40 minutes or so.
- When the rice grains are swollen and the mixture is as thick as oatmeal, the congee is ready. If it gets too thick, add more water. If it’s too thin, cook it until it reaches the desired smoothness and thickness.
- Remove the bones, ginger, garlic, green onion and onion. Add soy sauce, salt, and white pepper to taste.
- Ladle into individual bowls, drizzle with sesame oil, and garnish as desired.
Winter Congee Recipe for Colds & Flu : Chinese Medicine Living
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