A Brief Introduction To Congee

Congee is a savory rice porridge that is eaten all over Asia. Also called kayu, juk, among other things, congee is a simple and comforting dish that can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner depending on your mood and/or preparation.

What’s wonderful about congee is just how versatile it is. Add bacon and a runny egg, and you’ve got a breakfast iteration. Roast chicken and green onions with sesame oil, and it’s an entirely different dish.

The basics of congee are very simple. You need rice, water or broth, and your choice aromatics. You can also add meat directly into the cooking process for a bulkier version.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Add 1 cup white rice (any type) abd 8 cups of liquid to your stock pot. (Reduce water by 1 cup if using an Instant Pot.) Remember that broth we made last week? Now’s a great time to use it! I usually use a mixture of 2/3 broth to 1/3 water. However, you can play with it to your liking. And any broth/stock/bone broth/bouillon will do!
  • Now add your aromatics. I usually use 1 tbsp ginger, 1 tbsp garlic, 1 tsp salt, and 1 tsp white pepper. (Five spice powder is also an excellent addition here if you want a more traditional Chinese route.) If you’re adding meat (we recommend chicken or turkey on the bone), now is the time to do it.
  • Stir and bring everything to a boil, then turn it down and let it simmer, covered, until rice has come apart completely, approximately one hour. Make sure to stir it every so often so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Alternatively, set your Instant Pot to High for 35 minutes. Let the steam release naturally.

The final version should look something like this:

Congee fresh out of the Instant Pot.

Taste the congee to see if you need to add more salt. (This will depend on the salt content of your broth and your proportion of broth to water.)

Now comes the fun part–toppings!

Congee is truly a palette on which to work. Think about the flavor of your aromatics and then go from there. Some things I personally love on congee are:

  • Egg (either fried with a runny yolk or just the raw yolk from a farm-fresh egg)
  • Chopped green onions
  • Meat (cooked bacon, stewed chicken, grilled ginger pork, lemongrass meatballs, etc.)
  • Vegetables and/or tofu (sauteed mushrooms, caramelized onions, crispy tofu, etc.)
  • Diced kimchi or other fermented vegetables
  • Sesame oil
  • Soy sauce
  • Sesame seeds
  • Foraged greens or flowers
  • Chile crisp

The options are endless! Plus one cup of rice is now 4-5 meals, so this is about as economical as food gets. If you’re cooking for one, congee will last for a week in the refrigerator and can be endlessly rearranged to make different meals and use up what’s in your pantry or vegetable drawer.

Congee with raw duck yolk, preserved daikon, green onions, buttered leaks, and white sesame seeds.

Let us know some of your favorite toppings and share your pictures of your congee in the comments or on social media with the hashtag #apocalycious.

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