Congee, one type of rice porridge is one of the most popular staple food in lots of Asian countries, sometimes also served as breakfast or even staple food for meals. We will introduce the basic tips about how to make perfect, smooth plain white congee at home. Then you can further add other ingredients or toppings to twist it into something delicious and interesting.
What's congee- Rice porridge
Congee (Jook) is a type of rice porridge that is commonly eaten in many Asian countries. In China, we have lots of different types of congee. But they are all base on a single plain white rice congee. It is made by boiling rice in a large amount of water or broth until it breaks down into a smooth, creamy consistency. Congee can be served plain or with a variety of flavorings and toppings, such as meats, vegetables, herbs, and preserved or pickles.
In Chinese rice porridge or congee is called "粥", sometimes the pronunciation is similar to joo or Jook in Cantonese. So it is also known as Jook.
example, in western parts, the most popular rice grain usually still has some hardness and is separated from the thin gruel. We usually cook a large pot and serve the whole family with other cold dishes or stir-fries. However, congee in Cantonese cuisine has a different definition. Cantonese congee is boiled with a relatively larger amount of water for a longer time until the rice grain and the water is well combined. Not pure water is adopted, people also use stock to cook congee. Sometimes, meat, seafood, and vegetables are added and the congee can be served individually.
Other porridge mixture
Congee can directly be served as a meal with other stir-fried dishes on summer days. We usually eat congee across the summer. But sometimes we add other grains and beans, like millet, mung beans, and red beans.
Which type of rice to use
Both long-grain and short-grain rice can be used to make congee. But short-grain rice is stickier and can create a thicker texture. I use short-grain pearl rice for most of my congee dishes.
Tools can be used to make rice porridge
- A pot or a clay pot on the stove: this is the most common way.
- Instant pot: you can use the instant pot to make congee, then take it out continue heating without the lid, and stir in one direction.
- Rice cooker: rice cooker can also be used to make congee. But you still need extra stirring to get a creamy texture.
How to prepare the rice for congee
Freeze the rice
Freezing the rice grain before cooking can fasten the cooking process and make the congee much softer with broken grains. If you know your plan for congee in a near future, you can place some rice in an air-tight bag and freeze it overnight.
Soaking the rice
Another helpful tip is to soak the grains before cooking, which also can speed up the process. The two methods work fine independently. Or you can freeze the rice after soaking it in the previous and make the process even quicker.
Mixing with oil
Mixing some oil can help to separate the grains and prevent them from sticky to the bottom.
Water and rice ratio
The amount of water needed to cook congee can vary depending on the desired consistency and the amount of rice, and the tool used. As a general rule, you should use a rice-to-water ratio of about 1:8 to 1:12.
For example, if you are using 1 cup of rice, you would add 8 to 12 cups of water. This will result in a fairly thick and creamy congee. If you prefer a thinner consistency, you can add more water.
If you use an instant pot or rice cooker, you can add less water than a regular pot on a stove.
How long is needed for a creamy congee
The time of cooking congee is depending on your desired texture, usually, 40 minutes of simmering (nearly around 1 hour ) cooking can make a creamy congee. But if you want it to be thicker and finer, you can cook the congee for around 90 minutes with more water added of course.
- 1 cup rice
- 10-12 cups water or stock
Wash the rice in advance and then soak it with clean water for 30 minutes. Mix with ½ tablespoon of vegetable cooking oil or sesame oil. Set aside for 15 minutes. You can freeze the rice the previous day after soaking it.
Bring the water to a boil in a pot and then add the soaked rice. Heat until boiling again and slow down the fire and continue cooking for 30 minutes.
If you want the rice to be well broken, stir the porridge during cooking in one direction in the last 5 minutes.
The congee can be served directly as plain white congee, or you can serve it with other side dishes and toppings.
What to serve with congee
Congee is a versatile dish that can be served with a variety of side dishes. Here are some popular options:
- Eggs: hard-boiled eggs, salted eggs, or even soy sauce eggs.
- Pickled vegetables: Pickled vegetables, such as pickled mustard greens, pickled cucumbers, or kimchi, provide a tangy and refreshing contrast to the creamy congee.
- Chinese doughnuts (youtiao): Chinese doughnuts, also known as youtiao or fried breadsticks, are a crispy and savory side dish that can be dipped into the congee.
- Soy sauce or fish sauce: A drizzle of soy sauce or fish sauce can add a savory and umami flavor to the congee, enhancing its overall taste.
- Preserved vegetables- Ya Cai, Zha cai
- Fried peanuts: fried peanuts can add a crispy texture to congee.
- Shredded lettuce: shredded lettuce can add a slight freshness to the congee.
Optional for century egg and pork congee
- make a basic congee with the previous steps
- Sprinkle salt, white pepper, and shredded ginger shreds.
- Add century eggs and continue cooking for 5 minutes over a slow fire.
- Turn up the fire and make the congee strongly boiling and then place the marinated pork slices. Turn off the fire and stir the congee slightly. Let the pork be cooked with the remaining heat of the congee. Then we get the tenderest meat.
- Serve with chopped Zha-cai and chopped scallions. You can also use fried shallot, toasted peanuts, and kimchi as toppings.
How to Make Congee (Rice Porridge)
- 1 cup rice
- 10-12 cups water ,or stock
- chopped scallion for serving
- Ya cai for serving
- shredded luttuce
- salted egg
- sesame oil for mixing
For savory congee
- 1 century egg ,chopped
- ½ cup pork slices ,marinate with a small pinch of salt and pepper
- ½ tbsp. cooking wine
- 1 tsp. cornstarch
- 1 thumb ginger ,shredded
- 1 tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. white pepper
- Wash the rice in advance and then soak with clean water for 30 minutes. Mix with ½ tablespoon of vegetable cooking oil or sesame oil. Set aside for 15 minutes. You can freeze the rice in the previous day.
- Bring the water to a boiling in a pot and then add the soaked rice. Heat until boiling again and slow down the fire and continue cooking for 30 minutes.
- If you want the rice to be well broken, stir the porridge during cooking in one direction in the last 5 minutes. You can serve the plain white congee with side ingredients.
For savory pork and century egg congee
- Marinate pork slice with a small pinch of salt, pepper and cooking wine. Set aside.
- Sprinkle salt, white pepper and shredded ginger shreds.
- Add century eggs and continue cooking for 5 minutes over slow fire.
- Mix cornstarch with the pork slice. Turn up the fire and make the congee strongly boiling and then place the marinated pork slices. Turn off fire and stir the congee slightly. Let the pork to be cooked with the remaining heat of the congee. Then we get the tenderest meat.
- Serve with chopped zha cai and and chopped scallions.
You mention freezing the rice. Is that done with the the dry rice or after soaking it?
I'd really like to try the "savory" version, mostly because I've been looking for a recipe using century eggs for some time now. What cut of pork do you use for this?
When serving the regular version in a meal together with a stir fry, do you serve a soup, too or does the congee serve as rice and soup in one dish?
Good point, I get myself misunderstood. You can use either soaking or freezing directly the rice after washing. The two methods work fine independently. Or you can freeze the rice after soaking in the previous and make the process even quicker.
I use pork tenderloin in this recipe.
It actually is served along with steamed buns, some pickles or a few cold dishes as a breakfast or served as a staple food just like steamed rice for meals.
Every time I have been served congee I thought it very bland. I do not understand it's popularity
Like most of the staple food in China, congee is very bland itself. But when you add savory ingredients, congee can absorb the flavors and make the savory ingredients more understanding. Chinese dishes are not served as single dish, they usually come as a group.
An easy way to flavor congee is to cook it in stock. When in a pinch Better Than Bullion is great!
Yes, Agree. We use chicken stock and pork stock too.
While working and living in Nantong for a year. I was served various congee for breakfast daily. On the table was at least one bowl of a mixed crispy oily condiment made with peanuts, garlic, chili and various roasted crispy seaweed and other vegetables. Do you know what what this congee condiment was called and have any recipes for it? I have never seen it described in any Chinese cookbook or blog and I have a couple of congee cookbooks although they are mostly Jook recipes for health and wellness.
Other congee condiment was whole peeled raw garlic, a huge bowl was placed in center of table. Co-workers from China wood pick up a whole raw garlic and place in the mouth to be slowly eaten while slurping the congee.
I can image how good the congee breakfast can be. I cannot figure out the exact recipe for the condiments. We serve lots of pickles and salad with congee across the country. But you can have a look at this one.
We do not like to eat raw garlic. Instead we prefer crunchy pickled garlic.
Thanks for the reply Elaine! I have hard time eating raw garlic for breakfast myself. In Jiangsu, the food I was served tended to be rich and oily with an emphasis on freshwater fish and other denizens of the Yangtze delta floodplain. Su cuisine tended towards fresh but doused with rice wine and rice wine vinegars. And red oil too. Not too many bloggers focused on these recipes so it is unknown to most westerners.
Although it's pretty warm here in Los Angeles, I feel that I need to try this recipe this weekend. I've not had Congee since I was a child when my mom used to make it. Thank you for the recipe. btw: I love you site....
I make savory congee a lot in summer. When you get the air-conditioner on, drinking congee is a very comforting experience in summer. Happy cooking!
Can Congee base be made ahead, like two days ahead and reheated on the day of serving with condiments on the side or added on the day of?
How do we introduce the minced beef?
And can this dish be made with Basmati rice?
Basmati rice works fine for sure.
Process for minced beef is almost the same with pork or beef slices. Just stop fire when the congee re-boils.
Would leftovers be able to be kept in the fridge?
Yes, but remember to re-heat before next serving.
You mention freezing - do you mean freezing in the freezer. That would mean the soaked rice in water would be turned to ice? or do you mean chill it in the fridge? Thank you.
I mean placing it in freezer.
are congees for healing ever made with brown rice?
and can you post a healing congee recipe for the autumn.
i love your site...especially the explanation of the herbs.
Yes, congee can be made with brown rice. In autumn, you can use pumpkin and other seasonal vegetables in congee. I hope I can post more congee recipes later on the blog as I am such a congee lover. Thank you so much for your love and kindness.
Great tips Elaine and awesome recipe. I washed and soaked my rice for 2 hours and froze them couple of days ahead. Salmon congee was ready in 30 minutes. Thank you. What a time saver recipe!
Yes, that's really a shortcut!