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easy savory congee (garlic rice porridge)

January 22, 2020

Congee is the ultimate comfort food. If you like carbs, and you like sipping on soup or tea, you are going to love congee. If you have an upset stomach, or a toothache, you are going to love congee. If it’s cold out, and you want to get warmed up, you are going to love congee. It’s totally foolproof – anyone can make this.

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Add a bunch of water and rice to a pot (about a half cup rice for eight cups of water/broth/stock)

Add garlic powder, black pepper, and a few splashes of chicken stock or a few ice cubes worth of frozen chicken stock. You can really mix it up here – substitute veggie stock or broth with no problem. You can add five spice powder, or your favorite seasoning. Anything from curry powder to roasted garlic and scallions to mushrooms (fresh or dried) is great in congee. Toss in leftover meats or grilled veggies or whatever leftovers you have.

Takes a while, but you can mostly just ignore it, simmering on a low heat and stirring every once in a while. It’s ready when it’s a gloopy mash. Drizzle toasted sesame oil and la jiao jiang (hot pepper oil) on top – or yogurt and chives – or a little miso paste – or whatever you are craving.

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Can’t go wrong with congee. The more cold, sick, or sad I feel, the better this tastes. It got me through a root canal, plenty of hangovers, and lots of cold nights. It really warms you from the inside out. It’s the ultimate soft food (I dare you to find a food softer than this!) and perfect for babies, and adults who are acting like babies.

I know “porridge” (or, worse, “gruel”) might sound weird to Americans – it reminds me of Goldilocks and The Three Bears – but if you like chicken and rice soup, that’s basically what this is. If you eat polenta, grits, oatmeal, or cream of wheat, you can probably already see how good this rice congee tastes.

My favorite lately is congee cooked with stock/broth and lots of garlic, dried shiitake mushrooms, leftover roasted veggies, and a pinch of five spice powder, served with a poached egg on top, sesame seeds, and LOTS of hot chili oil.

It’s also a great base for a one-pot meal. Throw in cooked meat, chopped veggies – whatever you want.

Infinitely customizable, impossible to mess up, totally different, and extremely comforting. What could be better?

If you like sweet better than savory, try this eight treasure congee (八宝粥) with dried fruit and nuts. It tastes perfect with some brown sugar, like oatmeal but even more like a warm hug.

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