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.
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!