Wednesday, October 31, 2012

It's not Mom's congee, but it's still delicious

One of my biggest neglects of this blog so far is never writing about one of Mom's most wonderful, magical comfort foods: congee.

I've asked her more than once how she makes it, but like most of her dishes it's a work in progress that is hard to pin down an exact recipe for. The most recent explanation required marinating chicken for days, using homemade chicken stock, cooking the congee for hours and hours ... I was instantly dismayed.

And it's not just because the process is long. It's more that I know I won't like the congee that I make as much as hers. Unless ... I make a completely different recipe.

So that's what I'm doing right now, as I sit sniffling with a head cold and trying REALLY hard to not call Mom and ask her to bring me some congee. I am a grown woman, dammit, and I can make my own health remedies (unless I have the flu, in which case I most certainly would ask Mommy to bring me some congee!)!

Luckily, I just learned a simple congee recipe in my Therapeutic Cooking class with Jennifer Adler, in which she simply threw all of the ingredients in a pressure cooker then served it to us drooling students. First, I'll share her written recipe with you, then I'll share with you my version, which is pictured above, so you can experiment with both:


Serves: 4
Preperation time: 3 + hours
Active time: 15 minutes

Congee is a long-simmered, rice porridge soup. According to Chinese medicine, simmering this soup for three hours balances the yin and yang of each ingredient, making it highly medicinal and easy to assimilate.

Congee is easy to make in a crock pot. Put the soup together before going to bed and wake up to this satisfying porridge. You can also put it together before going to work and the soup will be ready when you come home.

3/4 cup long grain rice
9 cups water or stock
1 4-inch piece kombu seaweed
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ume plum vinegar or to taste
1 cup chopped cooked chicken breast
4 eggs
2 scallions, chopped
optional addition: sauteed mushrooms

Place rice, water, kombu and salt in a 3-quart soup pot or crock pot. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to very slow simmer and cook for at least 3 hours or up to 8 hours. Add additional liquid if necessary. Prior to serving remove the kombu, add the chicken and crack the eggs onto the top of the congee. Do not stir the egg in. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, or until the eggs have cooked to desired texture. Garnish with scallions and optional mushrooms.

Copyright 2009, J. Adler, original recipe

Not Your Asain Mother's Congee

3/4 cup brown long grain rice
8 cups chicken stock
1 handful dried shitake mushrooms
1-inch piece ginger, sliced
1 clove ginger, minced
1/4 cup chopped carrot
1/4 cup chopped celery
4-inch piece kombu seaweed
4 eggs
Beet greens or other green leafy vegetables

Place rice, chicken stock, mushrooms, ginger, garlic, carrot, celery and kombu in a pressure cooker. After pot has come up to pressure, cook for 1 hour or longer, until soup reaches porridge-like consistency. After congee has thickened, remove ginger, blend the kombu separately and stir it in (or remove), then crack the eggs into the congee and simmer for about 10 minutes (like you would poach an egg). Place a handful of beet greens or other green leafy vegetables in a bowl, then ladle congee on top to soften. Add seasonings to taste (i.e. garlic-chili sauce, soy sauce or amino acids).

THE VERDICT: Indeed, it is not my mother's congee. I much prefer the less healthy century eggs Mom sometimes puts in congee over fresh eggs, but on the other hand, I also think using brown rice gives it a much richer flavor and nuttier texture. Nothing beat's Mom's congee, and one of these days I will get a recipe to you, but in the meantime I hope this will suffice!

1 comment:

  1. Way too many ingredient and way too long for my lazy butt! :) At 1+ hrs, I might as well use my Zojirushi rice cooker, which takes about 90 mins to make congee. My electric pressure cooker recipe is much simpler and faster. Dump 1 cup of white rice into the cooker along with 8-10 cups of water, depending on how thick you want the congee to be. I usually use 8 cups because you can add water to the cooked congee to thin it out later. You can substitute stock for water as desired. I often throw in some meat or bones, but make it plain half the time. You can also throw in some veggies now if you want but note that softer veggies will not hold their shape. I sometimes add carrots, preserved vegetables, bok choy, cabbage, whatever I have at hand. But again, I usually just make it plain. You can stir in leafy veggies after it's cooked. Start your electric pressure cooker and set it for 20-22 mins. That assumes 15psi. Many electric models only go up to 10psi so adjust your time accordingly. I let the pressure release naturally because the valve might clog from all the starchy steam. That's it. Now season to taste. If I'm really lazy and there is no meat, I simply use bouillon powder. Heck, I even use the packets I've saved from Ramen noodles. MSG, yum... If I have leftovers, I'd dump it in now. A preserved egg or sour vegetables is nice too if I have it. I've even shredded in cold cuts.

    Total time: 30-35 mins (Prep: 1-2 mins; Pressurization: about 10 mins; Cooking: 20-22 mins). I can't stand brown rice but my guess is that it'll take an additional 10 mins of cooking. I'd only eat brown rice if it was cooked with the GABA setting my Zojirushi rice cooker. That uses a 3 hour (!!!) cooking process to break down the grains and supposedly release the GABA which may help the brain and heart.

    The pressure cooker has changed my life. White rice cooks in 3-4 mins -- without any burning -- and tastes as good as the rice cooked in my $250 Zojirushi fuzzy logic induction rice cooker (which takes 1hr+ to convert the alpha and beta starches)..