Sunday, January 9, 2011

Plain Congee (Rice Porridge)

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With winter here (at least for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere), it's fitting that the next upload is for Congee. Congee, (粥 or "juk" as pronounced in Cantonese) is a type of rice porridge or gruel that's made by boiling rice in a large amount of water. The rice breaks down and as the water evaporates, the contents thicken up.

The reason why Congee is appropriate for the winter time is because it's commonly served to those who are under the weather with the cold or flu. Think of it as the Chinese version of chicken soup, especially true for plain Congee since it's only lightly flavoured. The following recipe is for plain Congee, which serves as the foundation for all other types of Congee that I will likely upload in the future.

The ingredients list is short:
  • 1 cup of long grain rice (I find 1/4 cup of rice is enough for 2 large servings)
  • salt and/or flavouring agent (I use Knorr's chicken powder)
  • water
To make plain Congee:
  1. Soak the rice in a large mixing bowl of water.  It's best if you can soak the rice overnight, but if you forget, soaking it as soon as possible the next morning would work as well.
  2. The next day, drain the water and use your hand to squeeze the rice, breaking the rice into pieces. Don't worry about how large the pieces of rice need to be.
  3. On high heat, bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add in the rice
  4. Use a pair of chopsticks to hold up the pot's lid and continue to boil. Boiling Congee has an element of skill. Early on, the vigorous boiling will prevent any rice from sticking to the bottom of the pot. However, as the rice breaks down and the Congee begins to thicken, the potential for burning the Congee increases as well. You may turn down the heat to medium high once the Congee is thickening well.
  5. The water will go from a clear state to a white one as the rice breaks down during the boiling process. Once you can see the Congee forming, add in the salt or the chicken powder. You can add extra salt in later, but you should cook the chicken powder if you're using it as it helps bring out the full flavour.
  6. Normally, I may boil Congee for an hour to 2 hours because that's how long it takes to break down the rice and obtain the porridge consistency. For those who would like a shortcut, you can use a hand blender once the Congee begins to form. This will save you boiling time.