We are reading and learning more and more about China these days. So I thought you might enjoy knowing about, and hopefully tasting the historic Chinese delight called Congee or Jook which dates from 221 BC. Like a porridge or soup, Congee is considered a one-dish meal that is delicious, easy to consume and to digest. The dish consists of thick boiled rice soup or other grains cooked with plenty of water or broth, rather than fat, and flavored with an assortment of meats, vegetables and aromatics.
Congee is considered one of the most popular and delicious Chinese foods among all classes of people. It is eaten during religious ceremonies and festivals and is used as a therapeutic treatment as well. For example, when eaten with asparagus, Congee is believed to be a diuretic and to reduce cholesterol. When eaten with ginger it settles the stomach, reduces nausea and cures indigestion. Pear Congee is the recommended medicine for respiratory ailments and fever. Imagine if Big Pharma was replaced by Congee. Achieving good health might be a natural thing.
Congee goes by different names in other parts of Asia, such as Gour Bah in Taiwan and Chao Bo in Vietnam. In South India it’s called Kanji which sounds like Congee although spelled differently. But whatever the name given to the dish, for many years it has retained similar basic ingredients and cooking methods with many variations in flavor..
In fact there seems to be no limit to what can be added to Congee to make it savory or sweet—both of which are enjoyed throughout the Pacific Rim including China. The Cantonese like it sweet with rock sugar. Natives of Shanghai like theirs prepared with cabbage and rice wine. Hong Kong eats the dish for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The middle aged and elderly enjoy the simplicity of the meal. It is easily made in one dish and is not difficult to eat.. Sounds like the ideal food for finicky eaters or for those who are pressed for time.
Here’s a savory Congee recipe I really enjoy that combines brown rice, millet and asparagus for Spring. The brown rice is highly nutritious, as is the millet. Asparagus, one of my favorite vegetables, signals the beginning of Spring and is grown and eaten throughout the summer. It is flavorful and delicious and of course is said to reduce cholesterol. Just don’t overcook it.
Chinese Congee with Asparagus, Brown Rice and Millet serves 4 - 6
Equipment: 2 medium size soup pans; one 8 inch saute pan; one large soup pot.
1 cup brown rice with 3 cups of water; simmer until al dente (about 45 minutes)
1 cup millet, add 2 cups water; simmer for 20 minutes until smooth.
1 cup asparagus, washed and grilled until blackened under broiler or on outdoor grill. Cut into 1 inch pieces after grilling.
2 garlic cloves, diced
1/4 cup Crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 inch of ginger, peel and dice
1 1/2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp light soy
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp scallions, wash and chop
sea salt and white pepper to taste
Pour 3 cups of water into medium size soup pan. Add 1 cup of brown rice and cook at a simmer until most of the water has been absorbed and brown rice is smooth—about 45 minutes. Remove from heat.
2. In a separate medium size pot pour 2 cups of water and 1 cup of millet and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Add 1/2 cup water if too dry.
3. Grill the Asparagus until partially blackened.
4. Saute the garlic, ginger and mushrooms until crisp with 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, about 2 minutes.
5. Combine rice and millet, garlic, ginger, mushrooms and butter in a medium pot. Add 1/2 cup of water and 2 tbsp. unsalted butter. Bring to a boil and simmer until water has been absorbed. .
6. Add the asparagus to the rice and mix everything together.
7. Add sea salt and white pepper to taste
8. Add 1 tsp. sesame oil and chopped scallions to garnish. Serve and enjoy!