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Congee: A nourishing Asian comfort food


Congee is a nourishing asian comfort food known for its flavour and versatility

It is commonly used for aiding in recovery after illness, calming digestion, and boosting energy levels.


A recipe is included to get you started on incorporating this wonderful food into your diet. Congee, also known as ‘juk’ in Cantonese, is a nourishing rice porridge used in asian style cuisine, and prized for its flavour, simplicity and health benefits. Often considered a comfort food, congee has played a significant role in Asian culinary traditions for centuries. In this article, we’ll explore the history and origins of congee, its benefits according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, and provide a quick pressure cooker style recipe.


The origins of congee

Congee’s history dates back to ancient China during the Zhou dynasty, making it one of the oldest prepared foods in Chinese cuisine. Originally, congee was a simple dish of rice and water, sometimes with just salt for flavour. Over time, it evolved and adapted to various regions, acquiring diverse ingredients and flavours. In Japan, for instance, okayu is often made with short-grain Japonica rice and served as a soothing dish for the sick. In India, it’s called “kanji” and may include spices and lentils. Congee’s adaptability has allowed it to become a staple in many Asian cultures.


Benefits of congee in Chinese medicine

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), congee is considered a healing food with several health benefits:


Easing Digestion: Congee is very gentle on the digestive system due to it being cooked down into an easily absorbable porridge. Often slow cooked with pork or chicken, congee provides a boost of Qi and Blood to the body, which is ideal for weak digestion, fatigue and recovery from an illness.


Cold and flu recovery: Congee has traditionally been a staple food to consume during and after a cold or flu. Its warm and soft texture can soothe a sore throat and boost a weakened appetite. Herbs and condiments like ginger and shallots are frequently added to clear mucus/phlegm and unblock sinuses.


Hydration: Its high water content helps keep the body hydrated, especially important during periods of fever or illness.


Balancing Yin and Yang: In TCM, foods are classified as either Yin or Yang. Congee is seen as neutral, helping to balance the body’s energy.


Nutrient Absorption: Congee can enhance the absorption of nutrients from other ingredients, making it a versatile base for various additions.


 

Recipe:

There are probably countless recipes and variations on how to make congee, which are easily found online. Traditionally congee is cooked on the stove for 2-3 hours on a low heat to produce the porridge-like consistency. For the purpose of this article, a basic chicken congee using a pressure cooker method will be used instead. From start to finish, this should only take you approximately 1 hour or less!




Ingredients you will need:


6 chicken drumsticks with bone and skin – opt for free range organic fed if you can

1 cup of long grain white rice (typically jasmine)

9 cups of filtered water

1 large thumb of ginger (cut finely)

Salt to taste

Green onion for garnish

1-2 tsps of soy sauce

Optional: 1x century egg. These are traditionally added to congee to boost the taste profile of congee, as well as tonifying Qi and Blood for fatigue.


Method:


1) Wash the rice thoroughly until water runs clear. This can be done in the pressure cooker pot. Drain away the water and leave the rice in the pressure cooker.

2) Peel the ginger and thinly chop into small strips. Then add to the pressure cooker, 9 cups of cold water, all the chicken drumsticks, and the sliced ginger. Please note, do not season with salt until at the end to prevent the chicken from becoming tough.

3) Move the knob at the top of the pressure cooker to the “sealing” position and set to cook on high pressure for 30 minutes.

4) Let the pressure cooker naturally release, which normally takes around 15 minutes.

5) Move the knob at the top of the pressure cooker to the venting position. Remove the chicken from the pressure cooker and separate the bones from the meat. Discard the bones or save for a home-made chicken bone broth. Temporarily place the chicken in a clean bowl.

6) To thicken the congee, press “sautee” on the pressure cooker and stir every 1-2 minutes to avoid congee from sticking to the bottom. Continue to do this until you’ve reached your ideal consistency. Some people like it more watery and others like theirs quite thick like an oat porridge. If you prefer a bit more watery, simply add some boiling water.

7) Add chicken back into the pressure cooker and season with salt.

8) Serve into a bowl, drizzle with a dash of soy sauce and garnish with shallots. If you’re including the century egg, slice it up and simply stir through your portion. Then devour this absolute goodness!


 

Congee is a warm, nourishing food which is not only delicious, but also simplistic to make. Whether you choose the traditional stovetop method or the convenience of a pressure cooker, a bowl of congee is a comforting way to nourish your body and embrace a piece of culinary history. Enjoy experimenting with different ingredients and flavours to make it uniquely your own!






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