Cooler temperatures have arrived and this calls for warming breakfasts!
Oatmeal comes to mind but to be honest, I find it a little boring and I prefer savory to sweet breakfast! While living in Asia, I discovered congee, a savory rice porridge that dates back to 1000 BCE in China! The story goes that rich Asians ate rice but poor people ate congee because they could only afford a little rice they cooked in a lot of water to make porridge for the whole family! This is a favorite breakfast in all of Asia and every country has its own version!
Health benefits of congee
Because of the high fiber and water content, congee is easy to digest and very good for the gastrointestinal tract. It is in fact recommended for indigestion and stomach trouble. Rice porridge is in fact the Asian staple food to heal the sick from illnesses.
Traditional congee calls for medium or long-grain white rice like jasmine or basmati are commonly used. But short grain works too. You cannot mess this up!
We had some black rice that hadn’t use because it takes longer to cook, so we gave it a try and it worked beautifully. It took a little longer but it was worth the waiting!
Another option would be to use brown rice and if you feel even more adventurous, you can also experiment using other grains like millet, cornmeal, or barley. Just use the same water to grain ratio and keep an eye while it cooks as different grains take more or less time to cook.
Is black rice better than white rice?
Black rice is rich in fiber, it has the highest protein content of all types of rice. It has less carb, the highest level of antioxidants, and is a natural anti-inflammatory. Black rice has 18 amino acids with a mix of essential and non-essential types. It is a little more expensive than white rice but totally worth it. It takes longer to cook because it is a hardier grain like brown rice, barley, etc so you want to make it ahead of time.
Rice to liquid ratio
For white rice, use 1 cup rice to 8 cups of vegetable or mushroom broth.
For black rice, use 1 cup to 8-10 cups of broth.
How to cook the rice
You will need to rinse the rice in warm water several times until the water is almost clear to remove the starch and soak it in clean water for 30 minutes.
Drain the water and you are now ready to slowly cook the rice in the vegetable broth.
This can take anywhere from 45-50 minutes and you will need to stir it after 20 minutes.
You can make congee in a slow cooker overnight and have the perfect breakfast the next morning.
I read (on thewoksoflife.com) that if you freeze the washed rice in a zip-lock bag overnight, you can make perfectly smooth congee in less than 20 minutes! Apparently freezing and thawing break down the fiber of the rice and speed up the cooking time. So I tried it with white rice and gosh darn it… it worked. However, it didn’t work with black rice! It took a good 50-55 minutes to turn into porridge but that’s kind of normal considering that black rice is a lot harder than white!
Types of accompaniments:
Congee in its basic form is fairly bland. Think of it as a blank canvas that you get to add colors and flavors. There are many ways to bring flavors and added textures to this dish.
Fresh ginger is always included in the basic recipe because ginger helps digestion and delivers soothing heat to the body.
Depending on what we have on hand, we usually like a combination of the following:
– Pickled vegetables like carrots, cucumber, turnip, or daikon.
– Protein: Tempeh, tofu, wheat gluten, yuba, fermented tofu, etc.
– Vegetables: Shiitake mushrooms, dried bamboo shoot, spinach, chard, etc.
– Herbs: scallions, chives, cilantro, fresh chopped ginger, chilis, fried shallots, and garlic.
– Fat: roasted peanuts, sesame seeds (white or black).
– Spices: chili paste, Gochujang, chili oil…
What to do with extra congee
You can reheat it the next day by adding a little boiling water.
Black Rice Congee
- 1 cup black rice (or white)
- 8 cups vegetable broth
- 1 chunk fresh ginger cut in match sticks
- 2 cloves of garlic minced
- 1 tbsp sesame or peanut oil
- 1-2 cups fresh spinach
- 1 cup diced firm tofu
- 1 cup pickled carrots and/or daikon match sticks
- 3 sliced spring onions
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
- 1/2 cup fried shallots (optional)
- 6 shiitake mushrooms thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp white sesame seeds
Prepare the rice
- Rinse the rice in cold water until the water is clear to remove the starch.
- Cover the rice with water and soak for 20 minutes
- Pour the rice and vegetable broth into a pot, bring to a boil, stir, then lower heat to medium and cover.
- Simmer for 25 minutes.
- Uncover and whisk the rice for a few minutes to break down any clumps.
- Cook for another 20 minutes until you have a silky smooth porridge.
Prepare the spices & vegetables
- Fry the ginger match sticks in the oil until they crisp. Add the garlic and stir.
- If you are adding shiitake mushrooms, fry the slices with a little soy sauce until they are cooked and set aside.
- Julienne the spinach or Swiss chard and set aside.
- Pan-fry the tofu cubes in some oil until crisp. Splash some soy sauce at the end and set aside.
Prepare the toppings
- Thinly slice the spring onions.
- Chop the fresh cilantro.
- Thinly slice the pickled carrots and or daikon.
Putting it together
- Pour the rice porridge into individual bowls,
- Top with fried ginger, garlic, spring onion slices, shiitake mushrooms, tofu cubes, sprinkle some pickled carrots or daikon.