January 07, 2017
Congee (also called jook in Cantonese, amongst many other names worldwide) is a rice porridge popular throughout Asia, and there are many different ways to have it. At its most basic, it is a blank canvas for your favourite flavours, whether you need it to be soothing and restorative, or something a little more lively. It is almost infinitely customizable to what you already might have available in your kitchen. It can be meat-based, or vegetarian, or vegan. Congee isn't always made from rice (millet, mung beans, barley, and sorghum are some of the other variations), but rice is by far and away the most common version. It is a popular any time of day - from breakfast to late night, post-pub snack. Every time I make congee, I remember how much I love it, and vow on the spot to make it more often.
This version came from my desire to make something with the strong turkey stock that I made from the bones of our Christmas turkey. Since I'm generally pretty well stocked for Asian condiments and garnish-ingredients, I was able to make this with what was on hand.
It does take a while to cook, but it's fairly low effort, even so: stir it every so often, and it takes care of itself.
100 grams (about 1/2 cup) long or short grain rice
1 litre (4 cups) water
250 mL (1 cup) strong turkey stock
1/2 - 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup diced or shredded cooked turkey meat
1 clove of fresh garlic, finely slivered
1 inch fresh ginger, finely slivered
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion
slices of red chile pepper
a few drops of sesame oil
You can garnish lightly or heavily, depending on what you have on hand:
Other typical congee garnishes might include:
Youtiao (Chinese doughnut/cruller)
hot chile oil
soy sauce (not too much, or it will overwhelm)
fried shallots/shallot oil
preserved duck egg
lettuce (stirred in at the end)
...and many more (and that's not even counting featured ingredients, such as the turkey in this version.
Wash your rice well in cool water. Meanwhile, bring the litre of water listed in the recipe to a boil in a medium-large soup pot, and once it is boiling, add the stock and the rice. Reduce the heat to medium-low until the mixture is bubbling enthusiastically, but not at a rolling boil, cock a lid half-on the pot (to let steam escape, and set the timer for 20 minutes. Feel free to stir occasionally.
When the timer goes, give everything a good stir, making sure there's nothing stuck to the bottom of the pan. I like a wooden spoon for this. Taste the broth, and add the salt. Start with 1/2 teaspoon (especially if you are using a salty, commercial turkey stock, or will be adding soy sauce later), and add more later if needed. Stir well and leave it to cook, uncovered, this time, stirring occasionally, for another 20 minutes on the timer.
When the second timer goes, check on it again. It should be much thicker (and more likely to start sticking to the bottom of the pot), but still not completely at congee-texture. These things take time. Stir it really well, and put the timer on for another 20 minutes, uncovered. At this time, you can chop or shred the turkey meat and have it standing by, and you can start to prepare the other garnishes.
When the timer goes for the third time, add the turkey meat to the congee, and marvel at how much thicker it has gotten. If it is too thick, feel free to add a half-cup of water (or more, but add only a little at a time) until it reach the consistency you like. Let the mixture cook, stirring frequently for 15 - 20 minutes, and then ladle into bowls. Top with the garnishes of your choice, and devour.
The below picture shows the finished congee, just before the garnishes are added. You can see a little of the turkey peeking through, but you can also see how thick the porridge itself is.