Several years ago I taught English in China. During the week, I ate all three meals at the school's cafeteria.
The students complained about the quality of the food, but I enjoyed the meals. It exposed me to many Chinese dishes that are still favorites.
For breakfast they served steamed buns, fried noodles, and even egg rolls. My least favorite breakfast item was their congee. It was so bland. I thought congee was unappetizing until a friend took me to a popular restaurant in the neighborhood and ordered it. It was flavorful and nourishing. I was surprised and have enjoyed congee since then.
People have been making congee in China for thousands of years. The Mandarin word is zhou or 粥. Each region of China has it's own variation. It is eaten throughout Asia and Southeast Asia.
The rice is cooked for a long time with lots water. The rice eventually breaks down and develops a porridge like texture. This is the last recipe I made from the Chinese cookbook I borrowed from the library.
The ingredients are 1 pound skinless chicken thighs, 7 cups water, 1 cup uncooked long-grain rice, 1 3-inch piece fresh ginger, 3 scallions, 2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine, salt, pepper, sesame oil, and cashews. I should have used peanuts, but cashews worked just fine.
I brought the chicken and water to a boil. I added the rice.
I chopped up the white parts of the scallions and the ginger and added them to the pan. I just chopped the ginger into three large chunks.
I added the rice wine and let the water simmer for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, I removed the chicken. I let the rice simmer for another 30 minutes.
Once the chicken was cool enough to handle, I shredded it and added it back to the pot of simmering rice.
I stirred regularly so that the rice didn't stick to the bottom of the pan. I added salt and pepper to taste.
Once the rice was the consistency of porridge, I garnished each bowl with sesame oil, scallions and peanuts. I ended up using more than three scallions to garnish the congee, but I only used three during the cooking process.
It was delicious. The texture was creamy and smooth. The chicken, scallions, and ginger made the rice savory and flavorful.
The congee was packed with hearty chunks of chicken.
The fresh scallions and cashews gave crunch.
The sesame oil was subtle but noticeable. It was nutty and added another layer of flavor.
This was appetizing, substantive, and warming. It would be nourishing if you were feeling under the weather. I could see a mom making this for her children. It was very homey.