If you haven't heard of rice congee, you're missing out. It's pure Asian comfort food: similar to something like chicken soup in the West. It's delicious, easy to prepare and easy to digest. In fact, congee is not only popular as a meal; similar to chicken soup, it's often fed to people who are not feeling well. It may not look like much. My husband expected something like savory oatmeal, but he was pleasantly surprised. The toppings can really make or break a good congee, so give that some thought.
Congee goes by many different names, but basically it's a thick, smooth, savory rice porridge. Sometimes it's made with other grains, such as millet. I do a few things which are not traditional. I ferment the grains to make them even more digestible and healthy and I use brown rice instead of white rice. I also leave the grains whole, for a texture in between a smooth rice congee and an Italian risotto. Please see notes below for instructions on fermenting, as well as, making a smoother congee.
Brown Rice Chicken Congee
1 cup onion, chopped
1 Tbsp. ginger, minced or 1 tsp. finely shredded
1 Tbsp. chicken fat, or another healthy fat
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cup brown rice
2-4 organic, bone in chicken thighs with skin
8 cups water or chicken broth
1-2 tsp. salt, or to taste
1. Heat a medium-large pot, over medium-high heat. Sautee onions, and ginger in fat, until onions are softened.
2. Add garlic, brown rice, chicken, 8 cups water or broth and salt.
3. Heat until it just barely begins to boil.
4. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer for 1 hour.
5. Remove chicken.
6. Gently simmer uncovered for 1-2 hours, or until thick and creamy, adding additional liquid, if necessary.
7. When cool, remove chicken from the bone and reserve meat. See notes below.
8. Stir occasionally to keep mixture from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
9. Remove from heat and spoon into 4-6 bowls.
10. Top with reserved chicken and any other toppings desired. The toppings are what really make congee memorable! I generally sautee some vegetables, giving them a splash of Bragg's Amino Acids, and sometimes a drizzle of organic toasted sesame oil. A poached egg with lightly sauteed greens and hot sauce is delicious, as well.
11. Congee reheats beautifully. Place congee in a pot and add a bit of water to loosen it up, as it heats.
Store the bone, skin etc. from the chicken thigh in the freezer, saving up additional bones to make bone broth in the future.
Make a plain or sweet congee by omitting the chicken, ginger, onion, and garlic and using water in place of the broth.
To make a silky, smooth congee, place drained rice in a blender or food processor and pulse to break up the grains a bit. They do not need to be completely smooth. The long cooking process will soften and smooth them out more.
You may also cook congee in a slow cooker on low for 8-10 hours. Remove chicken after about 4 hours.
1. Place brown rice in a quart jar.
2. Cover with non-chlorinated water.
3. Cover loosely with a lid and allow to ferment for 3 days at room temperature. If desired, you can add 1 Tbsp. whey, or 1/4 tsp. sourdough starter to your first batch of fermented grains to act as a starter, but it's not necessary. The soaking liquid will develop beneficial organisms and enzymes on it's own over the next 3 batches making the rice more digestible and more nutritious. See next step for process.
4. Drain soaking liquid, reserving 1/4 cup of the soaking liquid in the fridge, for your next batch of fermented brown rice. This soaking liquid will serve as a starter for your next batch of fermented rice. Continue doing this each time you ferment a batch of brown rice.
5. You may use the remaining soaking liquid for some of the cooking liquid, although it will add a little sourness to the congee.
6. After fermenting, you may tighten the lid and store the rice and liquid in the fridge for up to a week before cooking.
7. If you wish to further ferment the congee before cooking, drain the rice, reserving liquid, and place drained rice in a blender. Process as described above in notes. Add enough liquid to make a paste. Place the paste in a covered container on the counter, at room temperature, and ferment for an additional day.
8. Cook as directed above.