Congee, or rice porridge, is an extremely versatile dish with countless preparations in countless traditions. In some cultures, congee is served instead of rice at main meals, while in others, it is a breakfast dish or even a hearty meal on its own. Westerners would probably be most at home seeing congee as a breakfast food but it can be enjoyed at any time.
Congee is extremely simple to make in your rice cooker. If you don’t have a rice cooker, perhaps this simple explanation will be enough to convince you how useful one can be: for perfect congee, start with 1/2 cup rice. Then fill the bowl with water to the “1/2 cup” line. Then add the other ingredients. Make sure it’s set for porridge or congee and hit start. That’s it.
Stovetop congee isn’t exactly difficult, but you do have to commit ratios to memory (such as 6 cups water to 1/2 cup rice) as well as cooking times (about 75 minutes), and you have to pay attention to it along the way so that it doesn’t burn or dry out.
The other ingredients are fairly simple. You’ll want to add Tianjin preserved vegetable, soybeans, and sesame oil to the rice before cooking.
When the congee is finished, stir in some chopped scallions.
Garnish with slices of salted duck eggs. The duck eggs are available in two forms, raw and hardboiled. This recipe needs hardboiled eggs, so you can either purchase that variety, or else get raw eggs and boil them for 10 minutes before using.
Either way, the salted eggs have a delightful taste and texture. They are prepared in brine so they are permeated with a salty, umami essence. And compared to regular boiled eggs, they have a more complicated texture. Compared to chicken eggs, they seem a bit richer. A typical package looks like this:
And the eggs themselves often look like this, individually packaged:
To cut the eggs, crack them lightly and then run them through with a sharp knife. After cutting them in half, the shell will peel away. Then you can quarter them.
And that’s basically it.
INGREDIENTS and PREP:
- 1/2 cup rice (for 2 people), combined in your rice cooker with the indicated amount of water and 1 Tbsp chopped Tianjin preserved vegetable, 1/4 cup soybeans, and 2 tsp sesame oil (see text above for stovetop directions)
- 2 scallions, finely chopped
- 2 salted duck eggs (hardboiled), quartered
- Combine the congee ingredients (#1) and cook until done.
- When the congee is finished, stir in the scallions (#2).
- Serve in individual bowls and garnish with quartered duck eggs (#3).
Variations: There are as many variations on congee as there are people in Asia. You can add basically anything to the porridge, from savory delights such as fried ground pork, bacon, or ham, to sweets like cranberries, goji berries, or mango bites.
The essential Chinese pantry is here.