Rice porridge is a dish consisting of rice, water, and other ingredients added to give flavor. Rice porridge is served as a breakfast food, a main meal, or a dessert depending on the recipe and added ingredients. It typically has a thick, slightly uneven consistency, similar to a thick soup. This dish is known around the world, but it is particularly common in the cuisines of southern and south-eastern Asia.
To make rice porridge, a cook boils rice together with a small amount of salt and oil, then simmers the mixture over a low heat until the rice grains break down. This is a lengthy process, requiring at least half an hour of cooking time and often much longer. Once the porridge is ready, the cook may add other ingredients such as sliced vegetables, meat or sauces. In some rice porridge recipes, stock adds flavor to the porridge during cooking.
One of the best-known forms of rice porridge is congee, a Chinese dish with a wide range of regional variations. Congee — also known as juk, jook or chook — is a thick rice porridge which is a traditional breakfast food. It can also form part of other meals, and is especially popular as a meal for invalids because of its blandness if unflavored. Congee recipes include ingredients such as chicken, fish, pork, ginger, lettuce, tofu or pickled eggs. These ingredients provide a strongly flavored counterpoint to the simple flavor of the congee.
Congee and related dishes appear in many other Asian nations including India, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma, Indonesia, Korea, and Japan. The consistency and flavoring vary depending on the local customs. To vary the consistency of rice porridge, the cook varies the amount of water used to boil it. The lower the ratio of water to rice, the thicker the porridge will be. The length of cooking can also vary, with shorter cooking times resulting in a more soup-like consistency in which individual rice grains are visible in the water. The type of rice used also varies from place to place.
Outside Asia, dishes of this type are less common. Related dishes do occur in some European cultures, particularly in Scandinavia. These are usually sweet dishes made with rice cooked in milk rather than in water. This type of dish is often called rice pudding rather than rice porridge and may include sugar or spices such as cinnamon.