Congee, or Chinese rice porridge, is a versatile comfort food. Its flavor and texture can be altered to suit your taste, whether you prefer a thick, sweet dish or a thin and savory one. Methods of preparation include cooking congee on a stovetop, cooking it in a rice cooker and cooking it in a slow cooker. After the congee is cooked, you can top it with a variety of ingredients, such as fish, chicken or mushrooms.
Since rice is the main ingredient, it's important to use high quality rice when cooking congee. The best results are usually with short or medium grain rice. Jasmine rice and medium grain brown rice are two good options. You can use either cooked or uncooked rice; precooked rice will cook much more quickly. If you use uncooked rice, rinse it until the water runs clear and then soak it for half an hour before proceeding. If you're using precooked rice, make sure to break up any lumps before you begin to cook it.
The thickness of the congee depends on the ratio of rice to water. For thick congee, use one cup of rice to eight cups of water. For medium congee, use one cup of rice to 10 cups of water. For thin congee, use one cup of rice to 13 cups of water. Use less water if you're cooking with a rice cooker or slow cooker, since you will lose less water to evaporation.
To cook congee on a stovetop, add the water and rice to a pot and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. The cooking time will vary with the type of rice used.
Congee can also be cooked in a rice cooker by placing the rice and water into the cooker and then cooking it for 45 minutes to an hour. You can also use a slow cooker, but it will take four to five hours until the congee is done.
Regardless of which method you use, you will need to check the consistency of the rice to tell when it is done. When the grains of rice begin to break up, the congee is done. You can cook it for longer or slower amounts of time depending on your personal preference.
To flavor your congee, soup stock such as beef or vegetable stock can be substituted for the water. After the congee is cooked, you can choose any number of ingredients to add flavor to the final dish. Common toppings include cooked meat or seafood, egg, lotus root, goji berries and mushrooms. Depending on the ingredient, it may be added while the rice is cooking or placed on top when the congee is served.
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Jen Morel has worked in the newspaper industry since 2007. An experienced backpacker, she is a contributor to "AMC Outdoors" and other hiking/environmental magazines. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in cognitive science and philosophy.