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Adventures in the Kitchen and on the Road


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Congee (Jook) - Chinese Rice Porridge


small photo of bowl of congee


Growing up, our mom sometimes made congee (pronounced con-jee) for breakfast, except she called it mwaye (all one syllable sounding kinda like moow-eye). I think that's the Taiwanese word for it. Each person had a bowl of watery soft rice. In the center of the table, there were a variety of small dishes to eat with the rice. Most often, we had sliced green onions, Chinese pickled cucumbers (in soy sauce?), eggs (tea-smoked or fried), and pork floss (a dried, shredded pork). Sometimes we'd also have whatever leftovers we had kicking around the fridge. Although we kids were finicky eaters, we all liked this meal. So much so, that when we were in Taiwan, we would request this dish even in restaurants. This embarrassed my parents a bit since apparently it was not really restaurant food. It's the sort of thing you have at home when you're sick and you want comfort food or if you're poor and don't have a lot to eat. It's not the sort of thing you order when you're out in a fancy restaurant celebrating gathering with your extended family for the first time in years. No matter. At least it wasn't as bad as when we demanded peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches.

I still love congee and made it on rare occasions. Last Christmas, B's dad and his wife gave us a fancy fuzzy-logic rice cooker. I've always pooh-poohed these things but I have to admit, they make perfect rice that doesn't stick to the pot or burn on the bottom. It even has a setting for porridge so it's easier than ever to have congee for breakfast. Awesome!

So on one hungry morning, I made this for breakfast. Starting from the egg and going clockwise, I piled on: fried egg (over medium with soy sauce drizzled on it), zucchini, Chinese watercress (from my parents' garden), green beans, and dried shredded salmon. That's right, now you can get dried shredded salmon! Mom brought some back from Taiwan for me on my last trip. Underneath that whole pile of stuff, the bowl is filled with soft rice porridge.

Apparently you CAN order it in restaurants. At least, I've seen it on menus in some of the places in Chinatown. I guess I've absorbed my parents' disdain for that as a restaurant dish though since I've never ordered it. Same way as I never order fried rice since that's made from old leftover rice. (And yet I make fried rice at home to use up my own rice leftovers.)

Sorry...no recipe since I'm just using a setting on my rice cooker. I think the basic idea is something like a cup of rice and lots of water (like 9 cups of water) and cook until the rice is really soft. But there should still be water. Add hot water as needed to keep it watery. Then season it and top with whatever you like.


congee with veggies, egg, and dried shredded salmon on top


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that looks really tasty. my rice cooker doesn't have a setting or instructions on how to make this kind of rice, but I'm sure I can find a recipe, I think the Madhur Jaffrey world of the east vegetarian book has one.

What if you boil small grain rice in a pot with double the amount of water till it turns very soft?

This has just made me incredibly hungry.

heh. and it's even pretty healthy for you! (so long as you're not avoiding carbs I guess)

I love my rice cooker. My mom's congee (juk in Korean) started with a whole chicken stuffed with Korean dates, ginger, and garlic simmered in water. The she added rice and salt to that and shredded up the chicken before eating. We'd mash the garlic into the rice as we ate. It's definitely comfort food.

mmm....that sounds so elaborate! Ours was always just rice in the rice cooker but a bunch of toppings in the center of the table. That reminds that about a library book I had seen a few years back about all kinds of things you could make in a rice cooker. I hadn't liked it back then because my rice cooker didn't have all the settings the book kept mentioning but I wonder if I would like it now. I should look into that. I love the idea of garlic already mixed into the rice. Wouldn't the garlic just be boiled though? Does that taste good?

I've never had any sort of breakfast food other than standard eggs/bacon/sausage/potatoes, but that looks YUMMY!

MMmmm...we mostly had the regular eggs/bacon/sausage/cereal kind of breakfasts but I really did like congee days.

I love congee. But where is the actual congee? All I see is a bunch of vegetables? Usually congee is just... congee with pieces, small pieces, of meat. Here in TW it is anyway. It's usually just... rice porridge and that's it. I love the stuff.

I think it's between the zucchini and green beans.

I have always been a bit afraid of congee when I see it on menus. I don't know why. Now that I know my rice allergy excludes well cooked rice, I might have to try this, especially if I can get it tasting as delicious as yours looks.

Also I smiled at the thought you asking for pb and jam sandwiches. Yikes! I loved going to restaurants because I could get food I didn't get at home.

Congee rice all by itself is pretty bland. It's the perfect food for when you're sick since it's easily digested and bland and not likely to upset your stomach. The deliciousness comes from all the stuff you eat with it :-)

I was a very very timid eater when I was a kid. I only wanted to eat familiar foods and that even include all the stuff that my mom cooked since she would sometimes serve up stuff like fish with their heads on or soup with little cubes of blood in it! I found it was better not to ask what something was because if I knew, I'd be reluctant to eat it. Nowadays, I do try to order food in restaurants that I can't easily make myself at home :-)

This was such fun to read, both for the food and the memories!

Great post! My parents often cooked the Filipino version, arroz caldo. It was 10 cups of water to 1 cup of rice. an entire chicken broken down, huge hunks of ginger, and a bayleaf or two. It seemed impossible that anything substantial would ever come of it with only a single cup of rice, but it always thickened up into a giant pot of awesome porridge. It was almost like risotto. When my boyfriend and I visit his parents in OKC, his mom cooks mwaye (I thought it was maoi?) for almost every breakfast. The first time, I dug in before his mom had set out the add-ins, and I thought it was so sad and boring. Then she brought out the pork and fish floss, scrambled egg, tofu with bonito flakes, and a ton of veggies. It was wonderful! It did take me awhile to get used to eating out of those tiny bowls, though . . . And on New Year's Eve, hot pot!!! Woohoo!

I have no idea how to spell mwaye/maoi (and I suspect my accent in even pronouncing it is wrong too). The arroz caldo sounds yummy! I should learn how to cook other versions of congee. Funny that you thought your boyfriend's mom was serving up boring bland rice for breakfast (but how polite of you to dig in anyway) .

Sounds good! I like the idea of the variations mentioned in comments that use chicken. I wonder if it would work with chicken stock instead of water.
(added to memories)

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