France has Riz au lait, Italy has Risottoto and the Chinese have Congee. Congee is a Chinese Rice Porridge that is typically eaten at breakfast. Unlike its two sister, the consistency of congee is more viscous. There is less of a chew and its typically prepared as a savory dish. What sets congee apart from the other counterpart is its utilization of the different condiments. Based on the different regions of Asia, congee will be served with different toppings. This article will go through two main version that is eaten in Asia.
These are the two type of Chinese Rice Porridge that I grew up with. They are in my opinion the best versions out there.
Perhaps the most famous congee is the one that is eaten in southern china. Both Guang Dong and Hong Kong are famous for their preparation of this dish. Often time you will find this dish mixed with a variety of seafood ranging from oyster to catfish. It is usually topped with a dollop of green onion and ginger. The end result is an incredibly fragrant dish that rivals that of any Italian risotto.
Usually the dish is paired with a fried savory donut that is called YouTiao. This Youtiao is deep fried in oil much like a traditional donut but instead of soft and sweet. This snack is crispy and savory. It adds a nice contrast with the texture of congee. You can also use YouTiao as a dipping bread. Just tear the top part off and dip it into porridge.
Taiwanese Congee is the most condiment dependent version of Congee. Unlike the other version, the congee is typically cooked bland with just water and rice. To add flavor, they use condiments like Hua Gua, Rou Shong, Dou Fu Ru, Century Egg or even Salty Duck Egg. In a breakfast setting, all these different type of condiments is given as an option. You would then customize your very own congee. Since I grew up with both version of Congee, I cannot say which one is better than the other, but rather just different. I would say the Taiwanese version is best if you want to serve a large group of people. They can build the congee to their taste. Where as the Hong Kong Congee is more set and less versatile.
I dont think congee will win any competition for healthiness. At its core, it is basically just grain and water. If eaten in an excessive amount, you can expect a huge spike in your blood sugar. However, if you compare this dish to any other American Breakfast, I would say that it is the same if not better. The dish is also not very filling. For the most part, you are getting full on soup. If you want to stay full throughout the day, I recommend that you get a version with pork in it. That will keep you satiated throughout the day.
Congee Health Benefits
Much like Chicken soup, congee is eaten when you are sick or have the flu. While there is not much medicinal affect to it, it is mostly eaten because of tradition and texture. Because of the way congee is prepared, there is almost no effort in eating it. You can slurp the dish if you throat is sore or just have trouble eating it. As a Child, I was always served congee as a means of getting better. But in reality, it doesnt do much. If anything, try to add more ginger if you want to get better via this method.
Congee Recipe, Ingredients and Preparation
This is one of the most easy and simple dish you can make. It is a perfect starter dish for anybody learning how to cook. At its core, all you need is three ingredients Rice, Water and Salt. To prepare it mix four parts water to 1 part rice. In other words 8 cup of water to 1 cup rice. Boil it at low temperature until the rice breaks down. The key is to break down the rice until the porridge is like a thick sauce. You can add salt to taste. One thing to note is to keep the temperature low when you prepare it. A little burnt piece of rice will ruin the whole pot.
Slow Cooker Congee
Given the nature of the dish. A slow cooker is perfect for this type of meal. You can prepare it at night or when you are not home. The steps are almost the same. I would probably increase the water content by one cup. Set the temperature to low and when you come back a few hours later, you have rice porridge ready. It cannot get any easier than that. This method is perfect for the Taiwanese style of Congee. Just buy a few different condiments like Hua Gua, Rou Song and Seasame Oil and you will be golden.
Congee (粥) Chinese Rice Porridge Thoughts
This is one the most easy and tastiest dish you can make. It is no wonder that it is a commonly eaten breakfast item throughout Asia. If you have a chance, give this dish a shot, its only a few ingredients. You will find yourself making this dish daily.
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