I grew up on congee, but our homemade version was never the same as at the congee and noodle houses. How do they get their congee so thick, creamy, and delicious? Here is one way to do it (without adding MSG in its pure form*).
*Please note that sodium, glutamate, and monosodium glutamate exist naturally in many delicious things such as tomatoes, asparagus, yeast, meat, dairy, and human breast milk. Here I have indeed added MSG by using chicken broth, as opposed to the pure MSG salt that makes up products like Accent and Ajinomoto.
Note also that this is only way to make congee/jook. A popular home method is to cook the rice around a poultry carcass to make congee from the homemade broth that is generated. I admit I’m a spoiled westerner and I’m not a fan of that method because it leaves small bones everywhere.
Restaurant-Style Congee/Jook (Rice Porridge)
Time: 1 hour
- 1 cup white rice (I used calrose)
- 1 large slice of ginger
- 3-4 cups (1 carton) chicken broth
- 6-7 cups water, plus more
- salt, to taste
- your choices of toppings, e.g.:
- young green onion, thinly sliced
- ginger, in thin strips
- cooked chicken slices
- cooked pork slices
- rehydrated/cooked mushrooms
- century egg, in small pieces
- Start by washing the rice, rinsing and draining 4-5 times or more. This gets rid of dust that clings to the dry yet starchy grains during transport and storage.
- In fresh water, let the rice soak for 10 minutes or more.
- Drain that water and transfer the rice to a large pot.
- Add the ginger slice.
- Pour in 10 cups of liquid: the 3-4 cups of broth plus the 6-7 cups of fresh water. One could add all broth, but I prefer my congee to not taste too much like chicken noodle soup.
- Turn on the burner to medium-high heat. When the liquid comes to a boil, turn the heat down to medium-low.
The timings of these next steps will vary, so please pay attention to your pot.
- The rice does not have to be stirred at the beginning. It will take the rice 12-15 minutes to cook until tender enough to be served as a bowl of rice.
- Once the rice takes on that cooked appearance, it is time to start stirring. The congee does not need to be stirred constantly (plus that would be insane), but make sure the pot does not go more than a few minutes without stirring. This is to avoid letting it stick to the bottom.
- If the congee gets too thick for your taste, add more water in 1-cup increments. I think I added 4 additional cups of water in total.
- The remaining cooking time required to complete your congee/jook is ultimately up to you. To get the thick, pasty texture as shown above, it took me more than 30 minutes of cooking over medium-low and stirring. To get rid of all the lumps, it will take even longer.
- When cooking is complete, fish out the ginger slice and add salt to taste (which could end up being 1-2 Tbsp for that restaurant level of saltiness).
- Serve with your choice of toppings. For some tasty carb-on-carb action, pair it with some Chinese donut.