Want a delicious new way to eat rice? As in, a way that doesn’t involve eating it from a little white takeout box?
Let’s talk congee. Though known by different names across China, congee generally is understood to be a rice porridge that can be served at almost any meal. The base is a soupy rice, but that’s hardly all there is to it. Often, chicken pieces or even a whole chicken are braised in the liquid along with the rice. The meat then is shredded and returned to the pot, which is delicious.
Some member of the onion family usually is involved, too. In my recipe, I went with garlic and scallions, which provide nice colour as well as flavour. I also wanted to head in a vegetarian direction with this recipe, so it features chewy and meaty shiitake mushrooms, with the classic Chinese seasonings of fresh ginger and a bit of soy sauce.
The porridge itself is mild, with the toppings providing the flavour. Sometimes, congee is topped with the additional ingredients, and sometimes they are stirred right in. Either way works beautifully. You can pass extra soy sauce at the table, but the real pleasure of this porridge is that it is a gentle comfort food, so enjoy the simplicity of the slowly cooked rice. Having said that, a drizzle of sesame oil at the end is lovely.
Just remember: You are not looking for the consistency of regular rice, but rather something similar to a fairly loose oatmeal. The description may not make your mouth water, but you will love it once you try it.
CONGEE (Chinese rice porridge)
Start to finish: 45 minutes
2/3 cup short grain white rice
3 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
7 ounces stemmed and sliced shiitake mushrooms (about 2 cups)
1/4 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
In a large, heavy pot over medium-high, combine the rice, 1 cup of water, 1 cup of the broth and the salt. Bring to a simmer, then lower the heat and cook, covered, for 10 minutes. Add another cup of the broth, then stir, cover and cook for another 10 minutes. Add the final cup of broth, then stir, cover and cook for another 10 minutes. Check the rice. It should be tender and soupy (but will thicken as it cools).
Meanwhile, in a medium skillet over medium-high, heat the oil. Add the garlic and mushrooms and saute for 8 minutes, or until the mushrooms are soft and beginning to brown. Add the scallions, ginger, soy sauce and sugar, then saute for another 2 minutes, or until everything is fragrant and tender.
Scoop the rice into bowls and top with the mushroom mixture. Serve hot.
Nutrition information per serving: 370 calories; 130 calories from fat (35 per cent of total calories); 14 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 800 mg sodium; 50 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 3 g sugar; 9 g protein.