A bowl of congee (soft cooked rice in a comforting broth) is a staple in many Asian households, particularly if you’re a little under the weather.
It is reputed to have healing powers as endorsed by all wise Asian grandmas and mums, including mine. Think of it as a sort of Asian version of risotto, or more accurately, a light savoury rice porridge – the real beauty of this dish is its simplicity. Rather than oats for breakfast, many Asian families welcome a bowl of warm rice congee, otherwise known as jook or zhou, as their first meal of the day. I also, not-so-secretly, enjoy it as a light and comforting quick dinner.
Congee is also super customisable to suit various dietary preferences and tastes, and it’s worth checking out the many variations of the dish from different regions of China.
Prep: 5 mins *plus rehydrating mushrooms
Cook: 15 mins ** if using uncooked rice, the cooking time will be 1 hour, plus
- 3 dried shiitake mushrooms
- 400g (3 cups) cooked short-grain rice (you can also make this with uncooked rice, but I find it easier to use leftover cooked rice)
- 2cm (3/4 in) piece of fresh root ginger, sliced
- 1 litre (4 1/3 cups) vegetable stock or water)
For the topping (per serving)
- 1 tbsp light soy sauce
- ½ tbsp Easy Chilli Oil (see p.23)
- ½ tsp sesame oil
- 1 handful of chopped spring onions (green onions) and/or coriander (cilantro)
- Pinch of sesame seeds
- To rehydrate the shiitake mushrooms, put them in a heatproof bowl and pour over enough just-boiled water from a kettle to cover. Leave to soak for 10 minutes, until rehydrated, then drain well and thinly slice.
- In a small saucepan, add the cooked rice with the rehydrated shiitake, ginger and the vegetable stock or water. Bring to the boil, cover with a lid and simmer on a low heat for around 15 minutes, until the rice has softened and the liquid thickened.
- Spoon the rice into two serving bowls. I like to season each serving with soy sauce, chilli oil, sesame oil, lots of spring onions and/or fresh coriander and sesame seeds, but you can definitely switch up the toppings to suit your preferences.
Bonus: Add your favourite protein for an extra flavourful bowl of congee – leftover cooked chicken, red meat or seafood work great here.
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