Thursday, April 15, 2010

Chicken Congee

Congee is rice porridge, and is the Asian equivalent to chicken soup as a home-made remedy. It's easy to digest, versatile, and comforting. You can put virtually anything in it, but usually it contains some aromatics (ginger, green onions, celery), a small amount of protein (chicken, shrimp), some seasonings (white pepper, sesame oil, soy sauce), and a LOT of water or broth. You can also add green vegetables. I find most recipes include ginger at the very least. This recipe is great when you're feeling under the weather.
This is congee with ginger, smoked turkey (just for flavor, removed the bone later), bouakham nam sausage, tea eggs, tofu, and fried shallots. It's like Chinese penicillin!

My rice cooker has a setting for congee, but it can easily be made on the stove. You can start with raw or cooked rice, with the latter being much faster. The consistency is a matter of preference and depends on how much liquid you add (you can always thin it out more, so start thick).

1 c. raw rice or 2 c. cooked
~8 c. water
2 chicken wings and/or 1/2 c. raw chicken, cubed
1/2 c. Chinese (or regular) celery, chopped
1 thumb-sized knob ginger, peeled and sliced thin
1/4 c. goji berries (optional)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1 dash fish sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 dash light soy sauce
2 green onions, sliced thin

Place the rice, water, chicken, celery, ginger, goji berries, salt, white pepper, and fish sauce in a heavy-bottomed pot on the stove. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, stirring frequently, until the rice is broken down and the porridge is the consistency of thin oatmeal. If it seems too thick while cooking, add more water. I'm not sure how long this takes since I use my rice cooker, but it should be about 1 hr for raw rice, 30-40 minutes for cooked rice.

When the congee is finished, stir in the sesame oil, soy sauce, and green onions. Salt to taste. Serve as-is, or garnish with crispy fried shallots, chili garlic sauce, or whatever you like.

There are probably as many congee recipes out there as people in China, so look around for more recipes if you like it. They can be as simple as rice+water, or be complex main-dishes with many ingredients.

Note: I bought the goji berries on a whim (they are pretty cheap) and it turns out they are very nutritious and add a nice color to congee. They don't have much flavor when cooked, so don't worry if you don't have any (and don't substitute them with cranberries!).

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