Congee is one of the best expressions of enthusiasm food can muster. A pot of rice dancing and bubbling and then bursting with joy. A hug in a bowl, when we eat it, the calm and the joy infuses us. Sweet comfort, congee layered with anything you want, salty soy, hot bright ginger, peanuts, spring onions, whatever you want.
Overcook is a word that is tainted with failure and distress. But sometimes overcooking is a joyful thing with wonderful results. Congee is a shining example. Congee is simply rice that is cooked to the point of bursting, like a star, like a galaxy of them in your pot. I have been on a bit of a congee rush for the last few weeks. It is one of my favourite breakfasts when I am in Asia, and it is so simple, and so frugal, it just requires a little rice, salt and a lot of water, and time. You can flourish it as much as you want after that.
I usually top my congee with ginger, peanuts, coriander and soy. Sometimes with chicken. When in Asia, I often order pork and century egg congee. Although I struggle wiyth the translucent wobbly grey whites presented, but I suffer them for the yolks. For years I never made my own, I thought that it must be complex, otherwise it would be everywhere, right? If congee weren’t complex, why aren’t we all eating it, all the time? I guess, we never grew rice here, and so it isn’t in our culture.
For this one, I made a rich congee with chicken brother, but you can make it with just water too and a little salt and it will still be great. I eat a lot of chicken broth, especially in the winter. It is everything I want and easy to make. I use either raw carcasses or chicken wings. I will use leftover carcasses too if I have those lying around. If using chicken wings you can take the meat off and save it for a later use or add it to your congee. I have tried many different types of rice, from short grain brown rice to long grain white. I didn’t have a favourite in the end, they all have their own charm and I would encourage you to play around. One thing I did learn is that congee likes to form a feisty crust, and so I added a tablespoon of rice to it before boiling to prevent this. (Do you like the crust? I found it made the congee a little more high maintenance too).
This will make enough congee for 4 people and it will keep in the fridge for 3 days. Enjoy! I would love to know how you adapt yours! Do let me know.
Recipe: Chicken Broth Congee with Soy Cured Egg Yolk
1 litre chicken broth (fresh is best – you can buy it or make it 1kg chicken wings or 2 carcasses, 6 carrots, 6 sticks celery, 4 onions, 1 tsp pepper corns, 4 cloves garlic and 2 bay leaves covered with water in a large pot and brought to the boil, scum removed if any, and boiled for a couple of hours)
100g long grain white rice
a kettle of boiled water, just in case!
4 egg yolks
200ml soy sauce
2 spring onions, finely sliced
2 tbsp peanuts (as you like them, I like them skinless and roasted)
a mild chilli, shredded or chilli oil
1 inch ginger, cut into fine julienne (small matchsticks)
2 tbsp fresh coriander leaves
4 tsp soy sauce
The night before or at least 2 hours before, put the egg yolks (gently!) in a small bowl or lunchbox and cover them with the soy sauce. 8 hours is optimal but 2 hours will do. This firms up the egg yolk nicely, but keeps it runny, and cures it a bit.
The rice grows exponentially, so in a decent sized pan, put the rice and one tablespoon of oil in pan and stir it through ensuring all the rice is coated. Add the stock and bring it to the boil. Reduce to a simmer. Stir the rice occasionally and if you feel it needs more liquid (it should be soupy but not runny) top it up with water from the kettle. It will take approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes (maybe less maybe more). Check for salt (it should be fine if your stock was seasoned) and season if necessary.
When the congee is ready, pour into 4 bowls (or 1 or 2 or 3 saving the leftovers in the fridge) and gently place te cured egg yolk in the centre, sprinkling spring onion, chilli, coriander, ginger and nuts and 1 tsp soy sauce on top.
Eat immediately and enjoy!