Making Congee from leftover rice (and anything else)

Ingredients:

  • About one cup of cooked white rice (measured when dried)
  • About 6 times as much liquid stock (in my case soy sauce, salt, garlic, chili, ginger and shredded lettuce)
  • A few bits thrown in to the mix (in my case leftover soya protein, diced carrot, broccoli and frozen peas)
  • Some sort of garnish (in my case a boiled egg, a dollop of chili pickle, more lettuce and some gherkins and pickled onions leftover from a Raclette night)

Time:

  • Prep: 5 – 10 minutes
  • Cooking: About 3 hours (only occasional stirring required)

I was recently in Vietnam and had been gorging myself on Pho and Bánh mì for breakfast but flying back home with a Chinese airline I’d enjoyed the simple Congee they’d offered for breakfast and resolved to make it myself when I next had a craving for it. I mean how hard could it be? As I understood it, Congee in all its variations, is at its a core simply a rice porridge, often a comfort food, and can easily be made from leftover rice which I often have lurking.

So on a quiet Sunday afternoon, I gave it a shot. I had some cooked rice in the fridge that needed eating up lest it’s ecosystem get wilder and a few other bits and pieces I felt I could throw in. I checked a few recipes online and there was a rough consensus of about 6 cups of liquid to one cup of dried rice. I had what I thought amounted to roughly 1 cup (by which I mean the nearest clean coffee mug I had available) so used about 3 cups of liquid, in this case water. Chicken stock or bones are often used for flavouring but I instead threw in a big pinch of salt and the remnants of a chili and soy sauce marinade I’d used previously to fry some soya protein.

It was recommended to cool the rice before making Congee if using cooked leftovers. I’d taken mine from the fridge so just threw it a saucepan and poured the liquid in. I broke up the chunks of rice with a wooden spoon (more a spade than a spoon really) and removed the cloves I’d cooked the rice with as enough of that flavour was probably infused already. I stirred over a medium heat bringing the mixture to a boil and before leaving to simmer, covered, on a low heat thereafter hoping to get a smooth, glutinous (sorry for the ominous imagery GF folk but it is actually gluten free) texture.

In the meantime I looked around for other leftovers to eat up. I chopped the leftover soy protein I had and threw that in along with some tired looking lettuce that I chopped roughly intending it to just disintegrate into the mix. I chopped half an old carrot roughly and threw in a decent chunk of grated ginger, in search of a really hearty aftertaste. All this meant it was brown (as shown in blurry pic) rather than a sterile airline white which was fine with me although purists might disagree. I left aside some raw broccoli that I tossed in later along with a fistful of frozen peas for a bit of earth and colour.

Now listen, it did take a while to cook. It was about 3 hours in the end but the only input required was some occasional stirring and inspection to make sure the rice wasn’t burning. I did end up adding a bit more water periodically and the whole thing could be done a lot faster in a pressure cooker rather than my trusty Le Crueset saucepan but I was mainly reading on the couch anyway and found the whole experience rather relaxing. I ate it with a garnish of a boiled egg and lettuce and a few pickles I had lying around. Again, I just throw in whatever I thought would make me happy. It went down well with my mug if Jasmine tea and I scoffed the rest the next day for breakfast.

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