Congee or Jook is a special rice porridge eaten throughout Asia when someone is sick or feels the need to eat simple foods to cleanse the system. Traditionally, it is made of white rice cooked slowly in a large quantity of water, i.e. 1 cup of rice cooked in 3-8 cups of water for however long it takes to become a thick porridge. It is extremely bland and very gentle on the system.
I often make congee with whole grains, and then I add other things for flavor. For breakfast, I might add some dried fruit and nuts, and maybe a spoonful of agave nectar or honey. For lunch I like to add some sesame oil, soy sauce, cooked edamame, spinach, and if my tummy feels up to it, some chopped green onions. If you have the time, it’s nice to soak the grains to help make them easier to digest. I like to use brown rice, and often add other grains like quinoa or millet. If you are not avoiding gluten, whole barley and wheat berries are nice, too, but they work best when you soak them ahead of time, and add the maximum amount of water when you cook them. Whole oats, or even steel-cut oats are a nice addition, too.
Whole grain congee is not tradional, but I think that when you soak the grains, and cook them for a long time, they can be gentle to your system, and more nutritious than traditional white rice congee.
Recipe: Nanakusagayu using local greens
Makes 4 servings
Since this is such a simple dish, make sure to use the best quality ingredients you can. The quality of the rice in particular is important, as is the rinsing and drying process. Use fresh greens and a salt that really tastes good.
* 1 cup white medium grain or Japanese style rice (see Looking at Rice).
* Mixed dark leafy greens
* 8 cups water
* Sea salt, to taste
Rinse the rice with several changes of water (see How to wash rice) until the water runs clear. Drain the rice into a colander, and leave for at least 30 minutes to dry.
Wash the greens. If you are using any slightly bitter or tough greens like kale, collard greens, daikon radish leaves (not sprouts), turnip greens, puntarelle or cabbage, blanch them briefly in boiling water, drain and refresh under cold running water. Tender greens can be used as-is. Chop up all the greens. You should end up with about 1/4 cup of cooked greens or 1 cups of raw greens, or a mix of both.
Put the rice and the water in a heavy bottomed pan (traditionally you might use a donabe or earthenware pot, but I just use a cast iron enameled pot). Bring up to a boil, then lower the heat to a gentle simmer.
Cook, while stir up the rice from the bottom of the pan occasionally as it cooks, so that it doesn’t burn or stick, for about 40 minutes, until the rice porridge is creamy, like a loose risotto. Add 1 tsp. salt and stir. Just before serving, add the prepped greens and stir in well. Serve piping hot, with additional salt on the side that people can add to taste to their bowls.
Congee cooks up nicely in a crock pot–just set it up before bed and you’ll have a nice porridge in the morning. I make mine on the stove and reheat it as needed (though Maki doesn’t recommend this. I find it works just fine for me).