There are a few recipes we all need to fall back on where money is tight and energy levels are low. For me, this is a good basic congee recipe. In its most basic form congee is nothing extraordinary, but it costs next to nothing to make, will freeze well, can be eaten by everyone from babies to the elderly, and is perfect when you’re sick. There are lots of ways to jazz it up, but congee will always be congee – this is basic home cooking, there to comfort and nurture and carry us through when times are a bit tough.
This dish reminds me of Hong Kong, where I spent a lot of my childhood. Downstairs from my grandma’s flat was a breakfast place that served the most amazing congee. It was outdoors with a makeshift rooftop, plastic chairs and rickety tables. The congee was piping hot and silky white, but the standout of the meal were the long deep-fried Chinese crossaints (you tiao) the congee was served with. I would dunk them in and they would soak up the rice, leaving my hands covered with a thin film of grease. It would have been the perfect hangover food.
The other way this dish is commonly eaten in Hong Kong is with salted pork and century egg. I would love to eat congee like this every time, but the salted pork takes a few days to prepare and I am never organised enough to prepare anything that far in advance. Also, Scruff absolutely hates century egg. For those of you who don’t know, it’s a preserved chicken egg that’s been turned into a black jelly-like substance. I suppose it’s one of those things you need to grow up with?
Here’s a list of garnishes and sides that we have with our congee:
- Chinese crossaints/fried bread sticks/Dau Chao Quay/You Tiao
- Chopped spring onions
- Chopped coriander
- Finely chopped ginger (julienne)
- Fried shallots
- Sesame oil
- Freshly cracked pepper
Here’s a list of a few of our favourite variations and how to add them to the basic congee recipe:
- Congee with Root Vegetables. This is a great vegan / vegetarian version. Finely chop 1 carrot and 1/2 a medium swede. Add the vegetables at step 3. For the seasoning in step 6, add salt or soy sauce to taste.
- Congee with Pork Mince and Root Vegetables. This is Scruff’s favourite combination. In step 3 of the recipe, add 200 gm of pork mince with 1 finely chopped carrot and 1/2 a finely chopped medium swede. For the seasoning in step 6, add fish sauce to taste.
- Congee with Leftover Cooked Chicken. This is a great way to use up leftover chicken from last nights dinner! Shred the chicken pieces at the very end. Continue cooking until the chicken is warmed through. For the seasoning in step 6, add either salt, soy sauce fish sauce to taste. ( I usually use fish sauce!)
- Congee with Century Egg and Salted Pork. For a very detailed recipe and great tips click here.
- Brown Rice Congee with Chicken. This one is from Sophie @delightfulplates. We love her food blog and this recipe.
My Tips for Success
- Stirring the pot regularly helps the rice breakdown and prevents it from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
- If the rice is sticking to the bottom of the pot then just leave it. Make sure the heat is on low and do not try to loosen the burnt bits.
- If a skin is forming on the surface then its a sign to stir it more often. Use a spoon to scoop it out.
- If your pot is not big enough to fit 2.5 L / 2.5 qt of water, then add it gradually through out the cooking process. As long as the the rice is initially completely submersed in water, it will be fine.
- Congee is a very personal dish. Some like the consistency to be thick and some like it more watery. Tailor it to how you like it!
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- 2.5 L / 2.5 qt water
- 1 cup Jasmine rice
- 1 tsp salt
- spring onion finely chopped
- sesame oil (optional)
- fried shallots (optional)
- other condiments as desired (see above)
Bring the water to a boil in a large pot.
Rinse and drain the rice under a tap a couple of times to remove the starch and any impurities.
Add the rice and salt to the pot. Bring the pot to a boil on medium high heat.
Once the water is boiling, simmer for 1 hour on low heat, stirring every 10 - 15 minutes. (If trying a variation, add extra ingredients as detailed in the variation section of the post.)
After 1 hour check the consistency of the congee. Add more boiling water to thin it out or cook it longer to thicken it up.
Once the congee is at the desired state check the seasoning. Add more salt if needed. (If trying a variation, add extra seasoning ingredients as detailed in the variation section of the post.)
Ladle into bowls and top with the garnishes.