Congee is a wonderfully soothing and easy to digest dish with Eastern Medicine origins. It’s essentially a very creamy medicinal porridge/soup. The ultimate warm and nourishing “get well” meal, congee acts as a tonic to a weakened or deficient system as it’s easy for the body to break down and assimilate its nutrients. The soup’s ingredients themselves act as demulcents: soothing and anti-inflammatory to the mucosa that lines our respiratory passages and digestive tract, which require particular tenderness when we are dealing with a viral or bacterial infection.
Congee is very simple to make. While it has a similar consistency to creamy risotto, it requires significantly less attention and just the occasional stir. You can also cook it overnight in a crockpot all at once! Modifying the ingredients to adapt to your needs, tastes or pantry is a snap. You can also add other vegetables, adzuki beans, cooked meat or other herbs and spices. I often add fresh grated turmeric, cayenne or chili peppers to aid in decreasing inflammation, or radish and mustard when I want to relieve congestion and phlegm. As we enter into cold and u season, I encourage you to experiment and enjoy the warming benevolent benefits of congee!
8 shiitake mushrooms, fresh or dry*
1 cup jasmine rice
4 cups vegetable or other stock
6-8 cups water
1 (one) 2-inch knob of ginger, minced
1 large carrot, peeled and finely diced
1 stalk of celery, finely diced
1 small head of bok choy, chopped
1 tsp salt
4 scallions, finely chopped
1 cup cilantro, chopped
Black pepper and salt to taste
Optional: 1 tsp sautéed garlic; additional minced scallions; drizzled tamari; srirachi sauce; or ume plum vinegar to taste.
Rinse rice and set aside.
In a medium saucepan, bring stock to a boil over high heat.
Once the stock is boiling, add rice and 4 cups of water.
Bring to a boil again, then reduce heat to very low, allowing to gently simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding more water as necessary to create a creamy consistency.
After 30 minutes, add mushrooms, carrots, celery and bok choy. Let cook for another 60 minutes, continuing to add water as needed and stir occasionally.
Toward the last 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of your congee, you may need to stir and scrape the bottom of the pot every few minutes to keep from sticking or burning. Once you’ve got a nice, creamy consistency and most of the rice grains have melted away into the stock, salt to taste.
Serve hot in individual bowls, garnished with any of the option flavourings.
* If using dry mushrooms, rinse them rst and then soak in enough room temperature water to cover them. Once they are soft, discard water, drain mushrooms and remove the stems. Chop coarsely and set aside. mushrooms and reserved chicken into stock pot.