This simple bowl of congee takes me back to my childhood; it’s the kind of simple food that makes me feel safe and warm and comforted. Congee (Cantonese jook or Mandarin zhōu), is a savory rice porridge that can be eaten plain, with a few condiments, or made into a more substantial meal with other foods mixed in. There are versions of this comfort food in many other Asian cultures as well. Click here for the printable recipe.
Video Tutorial for Vegan Congee (Bat Jook)
I find that a simple bowl of congee is a gentle way to wake up the digestive system in the morning. It’s quite filling because of the water content but low in calories. For that reason, I like to have a pretty big bowl. This bowl isn’t even big enough for me.
For the simplest congee, you need only rice, water, salt and ginger. I also have scallions here to garnish.
It seems there are conflicting opinions on whether washing rice for congee is necessary or not. However, I prefer to wash my rice for everything. It helps to get out any excess rice flour or grit that will mess with the final silky texture of the congee.
After washing the rice, I add 4 cups of water to the 1/2 cups of uncooked rice along with a few chunks of ginger and a quarter teaspoon of salt and set it on the stove to boil. You can always add more salt later if you wish, but this congee is meant to be a bit on the bland side. The condiments eaten along side congee provide all the savoriness and salt we need.
Once the water reaches a rolling boil, turn down the heat, cover the pot and let it simmer for 20 minutes or until the rice is completely cooked. At this point, I like to remove the chunks of ginger. I love the flavour of ginger but hate biting into pieces of it.
Then we can use an immersion blender to blitz until smooth. The traditional method of making the rice creamy is simmer until the grains fall apart. I find this more pro-active method much more efficient and the results are fantastic. I like to blend until it’s super smooth and silky but others prefer to have some whole rice grains intact. You can also add water or broth if you’d like to thin it out a bit.
Traditional condiments for congee include fermented tofu, chopped scallions and pork floss. Of course, I don’t consume pork floss but there are vegetarian/vegan versions made from mushroom and wheat gluten. For today, I made a side of sweet corn seasoned with soy sauce and oelek sambal sauce.
There are many more variations to this classic Chinese dish, of course. There are even restaurants in Asia (as well as North America) where they serve nothing but different kinds of congee and their fixings. There are no rules so you can make it all your own with foods you have on hand. Enjoy!
Printable Recipe for Basic Congee (Jook/Zhou)
- 1/2 cup uncooked white rice (if using brown rice, add 1 extra cup water)
- 4 cups water (plus more for washing the rice)
- 1" length of fresh ginger root, peeled and roughly sliced
- 1/4 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
- Wash the rice by rinsing with water several time and draining until the water runs clear.
- In a large pot, combine the washed rice, 4 cups of water, sliced ginger and salt.
- Heat until it comes to a rolling boil.
- Turn the heat to low and let simmer, covered, for 20 minutes or until the rice is completely cooked.
- Remove the ginger slices.
- Use an immersion blender to blend the congee to the consistency that you would like. I prefer mine silky smooth.
- Add water to thin the congee if desired. Taste and adjust for salt. Add white pepper if desired.
- Serve with traditional condiments such as soy sauce, chopped scallions or fermented tofu.