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 to make, and also cost-efficient. Essentially, you only need rice and lots of water in order to make congee. That makes the base of the congee and you can then add all sorts of toppings to it and flavour it however you like. Back home, I grew up mostly with Dried Scallops Congee, which is how my dad likes to make it – keeping it simple and no-fuss. Whereas my grandma normally likes to add fish or beef to it.
In this post, I’m sticking with a simple Dried Scallops Congee.
Congee in Chinese Culture
For us Cantonese, congee is very typical breakfast or light lunch dish. There are some fond childhood memories of mine where my parents would buy some takeaway congee from a local shop downstairs on Sunday mornings and get them with fried Chinese dough sticks. We typically slice up the dough sticks and dip them into the congee to eat.
Another occasion that we would definitely have congee is when we’re ill. Any sign of feeling unwell, the typical response is to eat some congee! Congee is the first food choice when one’s ill because it’s easy to digest and very light to the stomach. By keeping it plain, it’s non-oily and super clean to your digestive system, which speeds up recovery. In addition, the liquid nature of the dish helps to keep your body hydrated while also providing enough carbs to your body at the same time.
What are Dried Scallops
Dried scallops, a.k.a Conpoy, are quite a common flavouring ingredients in Cantonese cuisine. Most families will have a pack or two, along with other dried ingredients, stored at the pantry.
Dried scallops are another type of dried seafood, which is a very typical way of preserving excess seafood back in the days. They carry a distinctive savoury flavour, hence could act as the sole flavouring ingredient in congee. If you have good quality of both dried scallops and rice, you’re completely good to go.
After rehydration, the dried scallops themselves don’t have a huge amount of taste. It’s for sure more of a key flavouring agent and can be used in stir-fries, soups and stews as well.
In terms of health benefits, dried scallops are known to replenish blood and improve spleen as well.
How to Make Congee
The key to a good congee, in my opinion, is the choice of rice and its 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. As for texture, you want to achieve that fluffy texture with the rice porridge without it being too dense or too watery.Jump to Recipe
First, you start with rehydrating the dried scallops. As you soak the dried scallops in water, it releases its flavours into it. It’s absolutely important to reserve the flavoured water to give your congee a flavour boost.
Then wash and rinse the rice until the water runs clear. Place the washed rice into a large pot of water and bring to a boil. Then turn down to low heat, half-cover the pot, and allow to simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally.
Shred up the now softened dried scallops and add them into the pot of congee together with the flavoured water. Season with a pinch of salt. Stir and let continue to simmer for another 30 minutes. Add more water if the congee is too thick to your liking.
When ready to serve, garnish with sliced ginger and spring onions if you like. Serve hot.
Making Congee in Rice Cooker
A lot of Rice Cookers these days have a congee option where you literally just put rice and water into the pot according to device instructions and leave it to cook into congee. You can then afterwards add the dried scallops (soaked and rehydrated) or any other toppings you like into it.
Dried Scallops Chinese Congee Recipe
- 1½ pieces Dried Scallop rehydrated with ½ cup water, reserve the water for later use (see notes)
- ½ cup Uncooked Jasmine Rice washed (see notes)
- 1 cup Chicken Broth
- 6 cups Water
- ½-1 tsp Salt to taste
For garnish (optional):
- Fresh Ginger finely sliced
- Fresh Spring Onions sliced
- Light Soy Sauce to taste
- Place rice, water and chicken broth into a large pot. Bring to a boil.
- Once boiling, turn to low heat and half cover the pot. Let simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally.
- Shred up the now softened dried scallops. Add into the congee together with the reserved flavoured water.
- Season with salt. Stir and let continue to simmer for another 30 minutes. Add more water if the congee is too thick to your liking.
- When ready to serve, garnish with sliced ginger, spring onions, and a quick dash of soy sauce if you like. Serve hot.
- Prep time does not include time for rehydrating the dried scallops. It takes roughly at least 30 minutes for them to soften up.
- It’s absolutely crucial to reserve the water used for rehydrating the dried scallops as that’s where all the savoury flavours are released. It acts as a terrific flavouring agent here in the congee.
- Wash and rinse the rice until the water runs clear before cooking.
- Thai Jasmine Rice works best for congees because it’s incredibly fragrant on its own which adds flavour to the congee. But if you can’t get good quality Thai Jasmine Rice, regular long-grain white rice would work.