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What is Congee?

By M. Rosario
Updated May 16, 2024
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Congee is a type of rice porridge popular in many Asian countries. It can be eaten or served with a side dish. Names for congee are as varied as the style of its preparation. What does not change however, is Asia's love for the dish.

To prepare the dish, rice is boiled in large amounts of water until it softens significantly. A typical rice cooker in Asia will have a congee setting to make preparing it easier. The rice used can either be sticky or regular depending on the country's common practice. Culture also often dictates the way congee is cooked and eaten.

In some respects, rice congee is like chicken soup; its soft texture and easily digestible ingredients make it ideal for sick people. People who are ill are traditionally given congee to improve their health. Herbs and ginseng are frequently included in the dish because they are believed to have healing effects. Babies are also given this porridge as a way to start them on solid foods.

Most countries serve congee as a breakfast food. In Singapore, it is often eaten as a midnight snack. In some cultures, a number of ingredients are used, while others stick to just the basics. The Burmese san byohk, for example, generally uses only broth and chopped onions to give it flavor. Meanwhile, the Korean juk is cooked with milk, tuna, and garnished with vegetables.

Side dishes are almost as important to the congee experience as the main dish itself. A person ordering cháo in Vietnam will most probably have congealed pork blood served with it. In China, century eggs often accompany their congee. Juk is flavored by the ubiquitous kimchi. Chicken organs, like gizzards and intestines, are served with the Indonesian bubur.

In Filipino cuisine, congee is known as lugaw. It is usually found in upscale restaurants and street food stalls because of the Filipinos' penchant for the dish. Congee in the Philippines is mainly classified into two types: goto and arroz caldo. Goto is served with beef tripe, while arroz caldo is cooked using chicken broth.

The Japanese call their version okayu. This type of congee resembles gruel because of the way it is prepared. Iem>Okayu is cooked using relatively little water, giving it a thick consistency. Eggs may also be added to further thicken the dish.

China has probably the most versions of congee. Regions scarce in rice use cornmeal and barley for the dish. Ingredients used in Chinese congee include bamboo shoots, pickled tofu, and duck eggs. One version, the red bean soup, is a type of sweet porridge made from azuki beans.

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Discussion Comments
By anon347511 — On Sep 07, 2013

If you can use corn ground down to mill it seems that's similar to southern American grits.

By StormyKnight — On Dec 16, 2010

@calabama71: Rice congee soup is considered to be a comfort food. It is really delicious and perfect for those cold, winter days. This is the recipe that I use:

9 cups water, 1 cup uncooked long grain rice, 2 tsp. salt, 1 fresh turkey wing, 1 piece of peeled fresh ginger, chopped green onions, minced fresh parsley, and soy sauce to taste.

Combine the water, rice, salt, turkey wing, and ginger in a large Dutch oven. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cover and reduce the heat. Cook for about an hour and a half or until the soup is creamy. Stir occasionally. Remove from heat.

Remove the piece of ginger and turkey wing. Let it cool and then cut the meat from the bones. Chop the meat into bite size pieces. Stir the meat into the soup. Garnish with the green onions and parsley. Add soy sauce as you like it.

By calabama71 — On Dec 16, 2010

Does anyone have a congee recipe? I've heard of a rice congee soup being called jook. I would love to try and make it.

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