Is congee the perfect example of comfort food?
25 September, 2020
All about this Asian classic
When life gets you down (or your bank balance is low) congee is a cheap and easy comfort food that can turn things around. Congee is basically a rice porridge made of two ingredients, rice and water (or stock), and it has the cheery ability to make you feel better.
Across Asia it is known as a health food, easy to digest and excellent for nourishing the ill and the toothless (babies and the elderly). Those who practice Traditional Chinese Medicine recognise congee as an essential dish for gut health, because it aids digestion, soothes inflammation and balances the yin/yang energy in the body.
How to make congee
Rice is rinsed then simmered in stock for an hour or two until it has the consistency of porridge. Once seasoned it is served with a sprinkling of toppings like grated ginger or sliced spring onions. Of course, congee can be served as a side dish as part of a larger feast or as a main meal.
Congee is believed to have originated in ancient India but every country in Asia has its own twist on a congee recipe. Benagli congee is still made today, infused with ginger, turmeric and chillies to boost immunity. In Sri Lanka it is made with coconut milk as well as beef stock, and eaten for breakfast.
In Thailand, congee is served with pork meatballs . In Cambodia, the congee is called Borbor sach moan and is topped with chicken, pork, fish, dried fish, seafood, snails and sometimes even frogs’ legs. Cambodians garnish their congee with fish sauce, dried fish floss, pickled vegetables, chilli flakes, chilli oil and fresh fragrant herbs. In China, congee is enjoyed with lotus root, gingko nuts, bok choy and proteins.
To experience subtle ways that different ingredients can change the flavour of a dish, check out the congee recipes from Myanmar, Japan, Korea, Laos, The Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan. Get started by checking out this basic chicken congee recipe that can be made on a stove top or this one for a slow cooker. For those who love a salty congee, try this fish congee recipe.
When is the best time to eat congee
All across Asia, people eat congee for breakfast or as a late night dinner. Congee can be made and left to simmer on a stovetop until the family is ready to eat, or it can be prepared in a rice cooker. Basically, it’s perfect for any time of day!
Remember the olden days (of 2019) when international buffet breakfasts still graced the morning restaurants of hotels? Steaming pots of congee sat amidst smaller bowls of chilli, toasted nuts and vegetables. For a hearty morning meal you could serve yourself a bowl and top it with scrambled eggs or even sweet fruit.