Congee is one of the easiest and most delicious meals that you can make at home with a few simple, affordable ingredients. Whether you are looking to make it meaty or vegan, congee will highlight all the natural flavors of your ingredients and make them sing. Plus, you can customize each bowl by adding your choice of toppings.
This basic chicken congee recipe is an easy and flavorful place to start and tastes great leftover.
What Is Congee?
Congee, also known as rice porridge or jook, is a classic Chinese comfort food that can easily be made at home. It is a humbling dish that was commonly served in feudal China when grains and food were scarce. With just rice, water, and salt, this delicious rice porridge was made to stretch for days.
Over time, congee has become a common breakfast staple. It is the ultimate Chinese comfort food, especially when served hot during the cold and flu season, but it’s a soothing meal any time of day regardless of how you’re feeling.
The Best Rice for Congee
While congee can be made from a variety of rice including short and medium-grain rice, Chinese congee uses Thai jasmine rice, which is a white long-grain rice. This variety is known for its light and sweet aroma that permeates the entire house (which is how I knew dinner was almost ready when I was a kid).
While jasmine rice is preferred, basmati rice is the closest substitute in a pinch. This congee recipe calls for a ratio of 10 parts liquid to 1 part rice. This yields a creamy congee that can easily be made thinner with more stock or water.
Wash the Rice!
You might be tempted to skip this step, but rinsing is the secret to a delicious bowl of rice. By washing the rice with cold water and discarding the excess liquid, it removes all the excess starch and potentially any dust or debris. This method allows the rice grains to cook individually without the excess starch congealing into a soft, gummy mess.
Use cold water to avoid prematurely breaking down and cooking the rice and keep rinsing and discarding the rice water until it appears clear.
How to Make It Vegan or Vegetarian
In feudal times, congee was made simply with rice and water, making it inherently vegan. Over time, as the quality of life and access to ingredients improved, people started adding soy sauce for the depth of flavor and a touch of sodium. I love adding rehydrated shiitake mushroom water (and of course, the mushrooms themselves) for more flavor and complexity.
For a vegetarian congee, use your favorite vegetable-based stock and leave out the chicken breasts or swap them for mushrooms.
Can I Shorten the Cook Time?
The short answer is yes and no. The general rule for cooking rice, including congee, is to let it gently simmer until done. Even though high heat will significantly reduce the cooking time, the heat intensity will cause the rice to stick to the bottom of the pot and burn. Even the smallest amount of burnt rice will ruin the whole entire batch since the burnt flavor cannot be removed or masked.
To reduce the cooking time, you can rinse and soak the rice overnight. The softened rice will allow the hot water to distribute the heat more quickly and evenly, cooking faster. Some cooks take a step further to soak the rice and then freeze. This method fractures the grain to create a larger surface, cutting down the cook time. These steps require significantly more forethought, so plan accordingly.
Toppings for Congee
There are a variety of toppings that you can add to your congee. Try fried shallots, garlic chips, thin ginger matchsticks, scallions, roasted peanuts, chili crisp, cilantro, or whatever your heart desires—just in small quantities. Since congee is a simple dish, less is more when it comes to toppings.
Comforting Rice Recipes
Chicken Congee (Jook)
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, very thinly sliced
2 tablespoons finely minced ginger
3 green onions, whites chopped and greens thinly sliced lengthwise, divided
2 teaspoons chicken bouillon
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 cup jasmine rice
10 cups low-sodium chicken stock
Salt, to taste
1 (2-inch) piece ginger, peeled and sliced into thin matchsticks, to garnish
Season the chicken:
Add the sliced chicken breast, minced ginger, chopped whites from the green onions, chicken bouillon, and white pepper in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate until the congee is ready.
Prepare the rice:
Wash and rinse the rice with cold water until the water is clear. Strain the rice.
Cook the congee:
Add the chicken stock to a large pot over high heat and bring to a rippling boil. Lower the heat to medium and add the rice. Give the rice a gentle swirl to distribute it in an even layer.
Place the lid slightly ajar and adjust the heat to maintain a low simmer. Cook, without stirring, until the outlines of the grains of rice are no longer visible, about 1 1/2 hours.
Add the chicken and cook:
Remove the lid and give the congee a gentle mix. You can add additional stock or water for a looser consistency, to your liking.
Add the seasoned chicken and submerged it into the congee. Stir and break up the chicken slices. Cook over medium heat or until the chicken is no longer pink, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent the chicken from sticking to the pot.
Add salt to taste. Add the chicken congee to a bowl or individual bowls and garnish with thinly sliced ginger and scallion greens. Serve.
Store leftover congee in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. The porridge will thicken over time; when reheating, add more stock or water to thin it out to your liking, if needed.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 5 to 6|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 4g||5%|
|Saturated Fat 1g||6%|
|Total Carbohydrate 11g||4%|
|Dietary Fiber 0g||2%|
|Total Sugars 1g|
|Vitamin C 3mg||17%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|