Congee aka Chinese Porridge

It seems like most Chinese people have their own version of this. So, if you are Chinese and grew up with something similar but not identical, rest assured that I am not telling you that yours is wrong. I might just be saying that this is my favorite and it makes my stomach happy. There is room for variation in this recipe, which makes it great for weekends when you have not gone grocery shopping yet. You can throw in different ingredients you already have and still have something delicious. There are two ways you can make this; one is with a rice cooker, and the other is fully on the stove. So, even if you do not have a rice cooker, you have no excuse!

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The directions for this are a bit “relaxed” because you can make different versions. The second time I made it I actually added some mushrooms and that was tasty. Feel free to experiment, especially once you feel confident about the technique (and that is not meant to sound hard). My husband’s family makes this for us every time we visit, almost every day for breakfast. They know we love it, and I was happy to finally learn how to make it for K so that he could have a little piece of home here. The second time I made it was a surprise and he said he woke up confused because the house smelled like his parent’s house. Another add-in that worked well was browning 2 Tablespoons of butter and stirring it in at the end. It makes the congee extra rich tasting, and it’s perfect for a fancier version like we did for dinner one night.

This was using the rice cooker--it was more watery initially, but still good once I cooked it down a bit. I sauteed the mushrooms first, before adding the rice mixture.

This was using the rice cooker–it was more watery initially, but still good once I cooked it down a bit. I sauteed the mushrooms first, before adding the rice mixture.

If you have a rice cooker, it’s easy because you can leave the rice and go do other things. On the stove requires a little bit of babysitting, but not too bad (not like risotto). If you like your porridge really thick, then know that the longer it sits, it tends to thicken. You can also cook it longer on the stove.

Directions for Congee

This will serve between 2-4 people, depending on your bowl size

  • About 4 cups water
  • 1/2 cup rice
  • Chopped cilantro, green onions, or other greens (Chinese broccoli can work well, too!)
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)
  • Oil
  • Protein (optional, but you can either marinate beef, use seasoned shrimp, or you can make the chicken meatballs as shown below)
  • Sesame oil
  • Soy sauce

If you are making the rice in a rice cooker, you can use the porridge setting. You will use the line marker for “1” with the 1/2 cup of rice. You can add a little extra water if your cooker tends to make rice on the drier side. Allow the machine to work and pick up below where mentioned.

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If you are making the rice on the stove top, mix the rice with a pinch of salt, and a tiny splash of oil. Using a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil and then add the rice mixture. Bring back to a boil, then turn the heat down to medium. You want the mixture to be somewhere between a simmer and a boil. Instead of covering the pot fully, place either a wooden tool or use two chopsticks to keep the lid slightly ajar.

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Check every so often and add more water as needed. The rice will take about one hour. You want it to still be pretty loose and watery.

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If you used the rice cooker, place a medium saucepan over medium low heat, and add the rice, a pinch of salt and a splash of oil. If you used the stove, continue in the same pot. Stir in most of the cilantro (as much as you like) a splash of soy sauce, more salt and/or pepper if needed, and a splash of sesame oil. You add the protein depending on how long it will take to cook.

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If you are using the chicken meatballs, add them earlier because they take a little while to cook. The soup should thicken as it cooks.

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Near the end of the cooking time, add in the rest of the cilantro and the green onions or any veggies you are using.

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Serve!

Directions for Chicken Meatballs

This will make enough for a double batch, or you can go nuts and add lots of meatballs to a smaller amount of soup.

  • About 3/4 pound ground chicken
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1.5 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce

Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl using a chop stick to stir. Continue stirring for a few minutes until the chicken is broken apart, and the mixture is mushy. It also will start to be almost like a sticky paste.

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It is best to make this mixture ahead of time so that it can marinate. Otherwise, you might find yourself adding extra soy sauce in the soup later. This same mixture can be used to make other ground chicken dishes.

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Ignore my picture a bit–there is no need to form all of the meatballs before dropping them in. Even a slow meatball maker like myself does okay with this because it is so sticky. You can make them and drop them in right away.

To make the meatballs, simply grab small chunks of the mixture and drop it into your pan to cook.

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Directions for Congee (without pictures)

This will serve between 2-4 people, depending on your bowl size

  • About 4 cups water
  • 1/2 cup rice
  • Chopped cilantro, green onions, or other greens (Chinese broccoli can work well, too!)
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)
  • Oil
  • Protein (optional, but you can either marinate beef, use seasoned shrimp, or you can make the chicken meatballs as shown below)
  • Sesame oil
  • Soy sauce

If you are making the rice in a rice cooker, you can use the porridge setting. You will use the line marker for “1” with the 1/2 cup of rice. You can add a little extra water if your cooker tends to make rice on the drier side. Allow the machine to work and pick up below where mentioned.

If you are making the rice on the stove top, mix the rice with a pinch of salt, and a tiny splash of oil. Using a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil and then add the rice mixture. Bring back to a boil, then turn the heat down to medium. You want the mixture to be somewhere between a simmer and a boil. Instead of covering the pot fully, place either a wooden tool or use two chopsticks to keep the lid slightly ajar. Check every so often and add more water as needed. The rice will take about one hour. You want it to still be pretty loose and watery.

If you used the rice cooker, place a medium saucepan over medium low heat, and add the rice, a pinch of salt and a splash of oil. If you used the stove, continue in the same pot. Stir in most of the cilantro (as much as you like) a splash of soy sauce, more salt and/or pepper if needed, and a splash of sesame oil. You add the protein depending on how long it will take to cook. If you are using the chicken meatballs, add them earlier because they take a little while to cook. The soup should thicken as it cooks. Near the end of the cooking time, add in the rest of the cilantro and the green onions or any veggies you are using.

Serve!

Directions for Chicken Meatballs (without pictures)

This will make enough for a double batch, or you can go nuts and add lots of meatballs to a smaller amount of soup.

  • About 3/4 pound ground chicken
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1.5 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce

Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl using a chop stick to stir. Continue stirring for a few minutes until the chicken is broken apart, and the mixture is mushy. It also will start to be almost like a sticky paste. It is best to make this mixture ahead of time so that it can marinate. Otherwise, you might find yourself adding extra soy sauce in the soup later. This same mixture can be used to make other ground chicken dishes.

To make the meatballs, simply grab small chunks of the mixture and drop it into your pan to cook.

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10 thoughts on “Congee aka Chinese Porridge

  1. This is serious Chinese comfort food! : ) I make congee once in a while too…my 7-yr old and my husband love it. I usually season it with a few dried scallops and use any kind of meat (the little guy likes lots of meat). Your chicken meatballs bring back a good memory for me. My older sister used to make me a congee with beef meatballs when I was a kid that was soo delicious. I remember the center was super juicy and flavorful…she used to make it for me before she went out with her friends and left me home alone (I was a preteen then)! haha…

      • My sister can barely remember how she did it (we’ve talked about it many times) but I suspect she did it much like you. Our mom taught us to marinate pretty much everything the same way – soy sauce, sesame oil, a teeny bit of sugar, and cornstarch.

  2. Rice for breakfast, huh? Crazy world you live in. It looks a little bit like grits in the pictures which was a breakfast staple when I was growing up. I bought some in Amish country, I should totally make that for breakfast soon. Sorry your rice post made me want grits instead . . .

    • lol. Well, crazy people do rice for dessert too, with rice pudding. 😀 The Chinese breakfasts tend to be a lot more like lunch in their heartiness. I’m used to cereal, with the occasional eggs.

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