Recipe: The Secret to Making Good Congee (Chinese Rice Porridge)

Congee, i.e. Chinese rice porridge, is a very popular dish in China. There are also a lot of variations across other Asian countries. Congee is widely eaten across Asia because it is healthy, easy to digest and very easy to make. Basically you only need white rice and lots of water in order to make congee. That is the base and you can then add all sorts of toppings to it.

Back home, congee is very typical breakfast or light lunch dish for us. Another occasion that we would definitely have congee is when we’re ill. Since it’s easy to digest and very light to the stomach, undoubtedly you’re getting served with congee whenever you’re unwell. When we’re ill, we’re served with plain congee; whereas when it’s served as breakfast / lunch dish, my grandma normally top it off with fish or beef, as well as serving some fried noodles plus Chinese doughnuts on the side.

The key to a good congee, in my opinion, is the choice of rice and texture. I personally love using Thai Jasmine Rice because it’s incredibly fragrant. Thai Jasmine Rice naturally carries that sweet delicate flavour and fragrance where hardly any seasoning would be necessary for cooking.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Long-Grain Rice
  • 8-10 cups Water
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 tablespoon Oil
  • 2 Dried Scallops

How to make:

(1) The dried scallops are the secret ingredient. Soak the dried scallops and set aside until softened. RESERVE THE WATER.

(2) In the meantime, wash and rinse the rice until the water runs clear.

(3) Now here’s another secret. You can skip the steps if you can’t be bothered with the minor hassle. Before you start cooking this, briefly soak the rice and ‘marinate’ the rice for about 30 minutes:

Mix the rice with the oil and salt. Toss to make sure it’s all evenly coated and leave aside for 5-10 minutes. Then fill some water to cover the rice and leave to soak for another 10 minutes or so. Once the rice is softened a bit, use a spoon to break up the rice grains – this helps to create a more fluffy and pillow-y texture.

(4) Whether you decide to do this extra step or not, next step is to boil the rice with the 8 cups of water (save the remaining for later to adjust the thickness of the congee to your liking). Once it started boiling, turn to low heat and let it simmer for 2 hours.

(5) Check in every 20 minutes or so and give it a stir. Add more water if it gets too thick – adjust accordingly to your own liking.

(6) Towards the final 30 minutes, shred up the now softened dried scallops and add them into the congee altogether with the reserved water – you don’t want to waste that flavoured water!

(7) Keep stirring until it thickens to the consistency of oatmeal. Serve immediately.

Congee is also typically garnished with thinly sliced ginger and scallions. However, when you have dried scallops, I don’t really recommend adding that. This is because dried scallops have so much flavours in them so the garnishes would overpower them. As long as you have good quality Jasmine rice and dried scallops, that’s all you really need for flavours.

Congee is just such an easy and convenient dish to make. I like to make a large pot every now and then as a body cleanse too. Easy to make and healthy – it’s definitely something to have up your sleeves! If you’re more of a lazy cook, a lot of Rice Cookers today have a porridge option where you can literally just put rice and water into the pot and leave it to cook into congee. You can then afterwards add your own toppings to it.

Let me know if you like it and let me know what’s your favourite congee topping!

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