Updated: Jan 5
The joy of making slow food is understated in modern times. This year, while we have all become homebodies with the lockdown, I have also up-leveled my cooking game to include many slow cooking recipes. Slow cooking has multiple health benefits. It allows for nutrient preservation, and a more even, deeper distribution of flavors. With the approaching cold weather, below is an easy, soul-warming congee recipe that makes a nutritious one-pot meal.
Congee or rice porridge has been a popular Asian dish for hundreds of years. Congee is the chicken noodle soup of the East. It is the number one gut-healing food and has many health benefits.
Congee is characterized by having a high water to grain ratio and simmered at low heat for hours. The prolonged cooking time breaks down the starch in the process and allows for easier digestion. Cooking at low heat preserves the nutrients in the ingredients. Furthermore, the silky texture is highly hydrating for the body.
I like to stick to white rice when making congee as it’s soothing on the stomach, and easier to digest than brown rice. This little grain is a balanced nutrition source; containing carbohydrates, proteins, and many trace minerals that the body needs for metabolic activities. From a TCM perspective, white rice is neutral in nature and has a cleansing effect on the system. It heals the gut by building Chi and blood in the spleen and stomach meridians, strengthening digestion and healing the stomach lining. It aids with many G.I. conditions such as constipation, acid reflux, gastritis, and indigestion.
Similarly, a gut-warming breakfast is the best way to kick-start your digestion for the whole day. If savory breakfast is your thing, congee makes a great alternative to oatmeal in the morning. Just heat it up straight from the fridge.
This flavorful, vegetarian congee recipe below is especially beneficial for the winter season. Ginger and white pepper have a warming effect on the gut and speed up overall blood circulation. Wood-ear mushroom is a mighty winter tonic packed with nutrients. It is usually available at health food stores or Asian supermarkets, typically sold in dried versions. A little goes a long way with wood-ear mushrooms, so a few dried pieces will rehydrate to a cup’s worth. I also prefer dried shiitake mushrooms for this recipe. The dried version packs much more flavor than fresh ones. Feel free to add shredded chicken for a non-vegetarian option.
Triple Mushroom Congee
Prep time: 5-10 minutes
Cook time: 3- 4 hours
1 cup of jasmine rice
8 cups of chicken stock, vegetable stock, or bone broth (this makes a medium consistency congee, for a more soup-like consistency, use 10-12 cups)
Pinch of salt
Pinch of white pepper
1-inch chopped ginger
3/4 cup of enoki mushrooms
3/4 cup of thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms
3/4 cup of thinly sliced wood-ear mushrooms
Shredded chicken (optional)
Optional serving ingredients:
Splash of soy sauce
Few drops of sesame oil
Thinly sliced scallions
Rinse the rice then soak in water for an hour. This allows the rice to break down easier during the cooking process.
Add all the ingredients to a large pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil then simmer on low heat, with the lid half covered for 2-3 hours. Stir occasionally to avoid sticking to the bottom. Congee is done when the grains disintegrate into the liquid to reach a uniformly dense texture. If cooking in a slow-cooker, simply add all ingredients and cook on medium-high for 3-4 hours.
Congee can thicken a little as it cools. Top with any of the suggested serving ingredients before serving.
Research assistant: Alejandra Villaran