Congee: Rice and Ghee Porridge
Rice does not get the love it deserves. In our Western culture it seems like most of the glory goes to another grain- wheat. It’s in most of our pastries, breads, and considered one of the most used pantry staples. Rice, whose modest size, and uncomplicated appearance tends to get cast away in the shadow of wheat is surprisingly adaptive and versatile. In Asian cultures rice is their go-to grain and they’ve found some amazing ways to utilize and elevate it beyond simply steaming it for a side dish.
One of the most comforting and warming dishes for rice is in a simple porridge. Depending on how you view it, Congee is either a really soupy risotto or overly liquid boiled rice. However you choose to view it, congee is definitely a cold weather food that is nourishing, highly digestible, and open to the addition of many flavors. The most beautiful thing about this rice porridge is that you can use whatever topping you desire- meats, vegetables, eggs, tofu, tempeh, or any combination of them. I like a good mixture of textures and flavors in my congee so I typically mix and match so I can make a really spectacular looking dish that is both hearty and healthy.
Congee can take several hours to cook, but who has that on hand these days? The best advice I can give to cut down on the cooking time is to wash, soak, and freeze (yes, I did say freeze!) your rice before you cook it. These steps, if done ahead of time, will yield amazing results in addition to cutting out 75% of your cooking time! The other trick to consider is soaking and freezing a large amount of the rice at one time. This way, you can keep a bag of frozen rice in your freezer so that you always have the ability to make a congee when the mood, or cold weather strikes!
- 1 Tablespoon Full Circle Ghee Traditional
- 1/4 white onion; finely chopped
- 1 inch of ginger; peeled and grated/ minced
- 5 fresh shiitake mushrooms; sliced to 1/8 inch
- 2 green onions; sliced thinly
- 1 cup Jasmine rice; washed, soaked and frozen (optional)
- 7 cups of water, stock, or combo of both
- Xiao Jing wine
- Salt and Pepper
- Soy sauce
- Starting with your base of the congee: Finely chopped ¼ onion, 1 inch of ginger (grated), thinly slice 5 fresh shiitake mushrooms, and slice 2 green onions thinly for the garnish.
- Heating a deep pan to medium heat, introduce Full Circle Ghee to the pan. Let it liquify and once it has warmed, add the shiitake mushrooms.
- Once the mushrooms have a little color on them, you can now add the minced white onion and the ginger. Stir to combine.
- When the mixture looks like it’s sticking to the bottom of the pan you should deglaze it with Xiao Jing wine. This is a dry Chinese cooking wine with an aromatic flavor similar to Sherry but without the added booze and sugar.
- Once the wine has all but cooked off, add your rice to the pan. Using the spatula, break off the rice into individual grains and continue to stir.
- When the rice has been thoroughly broken up and is evenly mixed with the mushrooms, onion, and ginger you can now add your stock. You’ll want to use at least 6 to 7 times MORE water than you normally would. It seems like a lot of liquid at first, but trust me when I tell you it will all be incorporated at some point.
- Stir, stir, stir! This is where it becomes a little like a risotto, but definitely not as demanding. You’ll want to stir occasionally to get the dish fully incorporated but you don’t have to be a slave to the stove. Stir and check the doneness about every 5 to 7 minutes.
- After about 30-40 minutes you will notice that the rice has taken on a lot of the moisture and that there is a thicker porridge-like consistency. Keep stirring and in an additional 5-10 minutes you will have a full pot of delicious rice porridge.
- Once you get a homogenous texture, taste and season accordingly. You can use soy sauce or sea salt to get the flavor where it needs to be.
Ladle your congee into a bowl. If you’re just eating the congee as-is you can opt for a run of the mill soup bowl. I like adding toppings to the congee so I typically use a wide and shallow bowl for this purpose. Use anything and everything for congee toppings- it is remarkably receptive to anything you want to include. I love that this dish makes rice turn into something entirely unlike we formerly know it as. Great for the cooler weather, and easy to digest make this dish a welcome companion in the winter months.