Remember growing up when your mum would make you some special comfort-food dish when you were sick? Perhaps some recipe passed down for generations? For me and many other Chinese kids, this was congee or “jook” (as phonetically pronounced in Chinese).
The old wives’ tale has it that this dish can help boost your immune system and relieve you of cold ailments. When I wiki’d congee, I found out that there are a few different cultures (Portuguese, Indian, Japanese and more) that have a very similar dish – check it out at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Congee. I have introduced this dish to quite a few of my non-Asian friends with mixed reviews. Some folks just can’t get over the consistency – I guess it reminds them of oatmeal.
After feeling run down last week, I took a day off and made myself a big batch of this creamy, soupy, delicious comfort dish which is essentially watered down rice that has been simmered for hours. It works wonders as well when I’m hungover.
Growing up however, we always had a version of it that didn’t have quite the texture I would have in a restaurant. I always wondered what the secret of the texture could be. Through the magic of Google, as one could imagine, it’s simply the ratio of water/stock to rice (try 12:1) and having the patience to simmer the congee for 3-4 hours. Just bring the pot of your rice mixture to a boil, turn it down to simmer and let the magic happen.
I had some leftover condiments handy – which happened to be a roasted chicken. I shredded a few pieces of chicken breast and marinated the shredded chicken in soy sauce, sesame oil and white pepper. Just before the congee is ready, I mixed in the marinated chicken and served it with some green onions and fried shallots. Other toppings you’d typically find are sliced ginger, century eggs, fried bread sticks, quail eggs, and pretty much any other leftovers you can find.
Next time you’re at dim-sum, or spying on what those Chinese folks are slurping on, take a chance and order a bowl to see what you’ve been missing.