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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

My Year of Congee: Day One!

Today's the beginning of 2014--and the first day of my Year of Congee. Are you as excited as I am? (Probably not: I don't know that many people who get as excited about congee as I do. I'm hoping this blog will bring you over to this side of hardcore congee fandom.)

Congee can be made with many different types of grains, and be flavored as elaborately as you like--but since we're just starting out, I'm starting this year with the simplest and most common type of congee--bai zhou, which translates to "white porridge" and is basically just rice cooked with lots of water (as opposed to cooking it with stock and/or herbs, spices and other flavorings) that you top with whatever you like.

Here's how to make bai zhou:

Put 1 part washed white rice (we used jasmine; our favorite Three Ladies brand from Thailand) into a pot with 8 parts cold water.  We use a rice cooker, and just follow the cooker instructions, hit the "cook" switch, and have congee about 90 minutes later. Of course, timing varies from cooker to cooker.

If you don't have a rice cooker, making congee is only slightly more complicated: Bring the water and rice to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally, for as long as it takes for the rice grains to start breaking down and sort of losing their individual borders.

How broken-down and borderless your rice grains get is up to you. We tend to make a batch of congee on the more-solid side; here's a picture of what it looks like when it's done.


This makes a pretty big batch; I'll reheat small portions for the next few days on the stove with a little extra water in them, and so those will break down even more and start looking more and more like a smooth white mass and less like lots of blurry grains of rice.

There are countless ways to top your bai zhou. I picked some toppings that are considered lucky, in Chinese culture, for the new year: tea eggs, beet greens sauteed with shiitake mushrooms, and toasted black sesame seeds. Adam very kindly cooked them all to order--I'll start posting recipes for congee accompaniments tomorrow!--and laid them out here along with tamari, sesame oil and his homemade Sriracha.

Here's my dressed-up bowl of breakfast, all ready for me to dig in:

Kamal climbed into my lap and helped himself to some shiitakes, so I fixed him his own little bowl.

Mmmmm...mushrooms and mama kisses


We both loved it. So much, in fact, that I had another bowl for lunch today and am already looking forward to having it for breakfast tomorrow.

Tomorrow I'll post the recipe for these lovely tea eggs.

Besides being a pretty addition to your congee bowl, they're a perfect picnic food and were one of my favorite snacks when I was little.

Happy 2014, friends!

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