5/12/05 | Chinese Rice Porridge
[ Currently Eating: Soup ]
If you haven’t had this type of porridge before, you may be a bit confused here. When I say porridge, most people think of that as the sludge that Goldilocks ate in the Three Bears’ house – some sort of oatmeal connoction for breakfast.
The porridge I’m talking about is made with rice, and can be plain (basically just rice and water), flavored (either sweet or savory), and contain various different things like stew beef, fish, tofu, vegetables, and pickled items. I live in a community that is predominantly Asian, so I actually see this all the time on menus. Sometimes it’s called porridge, but most frequently I see it listed as “Congee” in Hong Kong style cafes.
I believe there are 3 different kinds. I think that the Taiwanese version is cooked with sweet potatoes in it and the Mandarin (mainland China) version is completely plain with just rice and water. Most of the time people eat other savory side dishes along with the porridge since it’s pretty plain. But the Cantonese (Hong Kong) style version is actually pre-flavored with chicken or fish stock and often contains cooked items in it. Don’t quote me on all this, I think there is a lot of interchange in the styles…
As far as equivalents for other nationalities go, it seems to me like a really watery version of Italian risotto. Whatever it’s called, and whoever makes it, I really like rice porridge.
Some people also call this type of porridge gruel. It’s a way to stretch out rice, wheat, or whatever cooked grain you’d like. I really don’t like the use of the word “gruel”, because besides being associated with something that is fed to starving orphans it reminds me too much of the word GRUE. (For those of you that didn’t play Zork, this is akin to a really ugly troll that will eat you.)
It also sounds an awful lot like “cruel” which it most certainly is not. It is actually quite kind on the stomach. If you are not feeling to well, this is sort of the Asian equivalent of having Chicken Soup. I put a lot of ginger in it as well, which I think is supposed to help with stomach problems.
Ok, so I’m no expert at making this, but this is my version of the Hong Kong style pre-flavored rice porridge:
Chinese Rice Porridge
1-2 cups of cooked rice — $0.15
1 can Chicken Stock — $0.50
Brown Onion (1/8 a $.50 onion) — $0.06
Cilantro or Parsley (1/8 $0.69 bunch) — $0.08
1 inch square of ginger — $0.25
Salt / pepper / water — negligible
You will have to experiment with the ratio of rice to chicken stock in order to produce the type of porridge you like. The above proportions are just guides.
Peel and mince up the ginger and slice up the onion thin. In a medium sized pot pour in chicken stock and about 1 can worth of water and add the brown onion. Bring it to a boil and then let it cook for about 3 minutes more. Add the ginger and cooked rice to the pot, breaking up the rice with a spoon. Turn heat to low and let simmer for about 10-25 minutes, stirring every so often.
The amount of time here is dependent on how “glutinous” you want your porridge to be. It also affects the amount of breakdown in the rice. Some people also chop up the rice to get it finer. Also, be carefull not to add TOO much rice or you’ll end up with a mixture that’s nearly solid. In general, put in less rice than you think you need to, since the rice expands and the released starch will thicken the mixture further.
When you’ve got it to the consistency you want, spoon the mixture into a bowl, throw in the cilantro or parsley (I don’t usually eat this but it gives it a fresh flavor, omit it if you don’t want to) and add salt/pepper to taste and serve.
Be careful, because the mixture will be REALLY hot. I’m not sure of the science but because of the glutinous properties of the porridge it seems to retain heat much better than normal soup. I’m not kidding, you will burn your mouth if you slurp it up to quickly!
Like I said, this can be really good if you’re sick. I like putting even more ginger in it if I’m sick. I’ve also added pieces of white fish like sole or red snapper near then end of cooking (about 5 minutes to the end) for a fuller meal. Also, you can throw in some Chinese mustard greens or pickles for extra flavor as well. Or eat that on the side.
I actually have not tried this with “normal” American rice, such as Uncle Ben’s. I use either Japanese sticky rice or standard Chinese rice, so your experience may vary. The important thing is that it’s a great way to turn your leftover rice into lunch!
Cheap Eats Score: 7/10