Congee (or Jook or Okayu, &ct.) - How Did Your Mother Make It?


#1

There has been a stomach virus going around, and I’ve tried a few different versions of congee. They were fine, but I will continue to finesse.

How do you make congee? Do you remember how your mother or grandmother made it? Discussion of one’s preferred Rice:Water ratio is also welcome.


#2

What kind of congee are you looking to make? Plain or seasoned?

Then ask yourself whether you will be using uncooked rice, or leftover rice.

(All these directions are for the stovetop, even though I know some like to use a rice cooker, slow cooker or pressure cooker, but, really, I think the stovetop method is the best.)

If making plain, using uncooked, then use a ratio of 8:1 (water to rice) or maybe 9:1 if you prefer something a bit less viscous. Add the rice and water to a large enough pot where the water only rises half way, then bring to an immediate hard boil for 30 minutes uncovered. Then turnoff heat, cover, and let it sit until the pot is completely cool to the touch. Congee is ready. (Also, I recommend either distilled or purified water, preferably the former.)

If making plain, using leftover rice, use a ratio of 2:1 (water to rice) and add water and rice to the pot and let it come to a hard boil, then immediately turn down the heat and simmer partially covered until it reaches desired consistency, stirring occasionally. Sort of like risotto, but so much less finicky.

If making seasoned congee, using uncooked, use the same directions as above, but my preferred stock of choice is either turkey or chicken, with a handful of conpoy. Don’t use any other water other than stock.

If making seasoned congee, using leftover, use the same directions as above for leftover rice, and use either turkey or chicken stock. Skip the conpoy. Leftover rice made with congee is best eaten with Chinese pork floss in my opinion.

Enjoy, and get better.


#3

I love congee but have never made it. So thanks for this thread!


#4

Rice cooker (e.g. Zojirushi) and ones you find at Chinese and some Japanese supermarkets will have a congee setting. Though the results can vary. On some of the older models, I have had to up the cooking time by an additional hour. Generally it was 2:1 or 3:1 when I tried it (as did family at home).

For me I prefer that each grain of rice bursts so you get a fluffy texture (looks like pillows of liquid clouds). If you want to achieve a creamier texture, add some yuba/tofu skin during the cooking process.

In Northern California there are a few Taiwanese small plates type restaurants where the carb of choice is actually their Taiwanese porridge, which is more of a very soft rice consistency, and the liquid is thickened from cooking the rice. This is more like a 1/3 or 1/2 way from cooking Cantonese congee, maybe with less water and looks more like risotto (though you still have the thickened liquid water). They also tend to cook it with yams which can be quite tasty together.

Congee specialist restaurants in Hong Kong (the neighborhood more old school places) do a blend of old crop rice and new crop rice, like a distant parallel to how traditional sushi restaurants in Japan and some high end US places blend their sushi rice to get a balance of texture and flavor. Some of the more old school places go as far as letting the rice soak in a little water (but not entirely) prior to cooking, with century eggs added in during the shallow soak (I forgot the exact reason for adding the century eggs). For those that offer fish congee, they buy cheap wild but super boney small fresh fish and pan fry them first with scallions and ginger before cooking together with the congee, imparting a wonderous smokey flavor in the process. Though if at home it’s probably easier to start with a base congee stock then cook ingredients in it separately (if you are not feeling well, lean meat/ground chicken or turkey breast/ and just a little salt, or just plain if doing cleansing).


#5

@ipsedixit could you recommend a decent brand of rice? I feel confident with Japanese, basmati, jasmine, and Carolina rice, but I don’t know much about rice used in Chinese cooking.


#6

I really don’t shop by brand so much as freshness. For most things (plain rice, congee, etc.) it almost doesn’t matter. Now, if I’m making something like zongzi (粽子) or 8-treasure rice (八寶飯), then I care about the type of sticky or glutinous rice I’m using as the rice in those preps usually take a much more prominent role, in both flavor and presentation.

As to type, I don’t think you can go wrong with Jasmine, if for nothing else than its fragrant nose.


#7

Thanks!


#8

My rice cooker(s) don’t have a congee setting. Any suggestions if one’s doesn’t.


#9

Thank you for the replies! I myself only experienced mild nausea for a day, but the boy, my neighbor and her three kids, and two the boy’s best friends were all sick, so I took around congee.

Before I posted my question, I made:

Congee with chicken broth, using Japanese short grain, 5:1 water/rice ratio. It was gluey.

Congee with vegetable broth, reconstituted dried shiitake mushrooms, and Koshihikari sprouted brown rice, using a 6:1 ratio. This one was pretty good, but more of a risotto than a congee. I had a bowl with Parmesan cheese, and it tasted great.

Congee with leftover Chinese takeout rice and beef broth, but ended up with rice soup. I probably used too much broth.

@ipsedixit I will try your 8:1 ratio with jasmine rice today. I always thought a starchy rice was preferable, but once you made the suggestion of jasmine rice, it all made sense to me. That, and I’ve never heard of your cooking method. I’m intrigued.


#10

Mom is from Taipei, so always ate it with certain canned foods and/or quick pickled/stir fry veggies. Always some pork floss too. Sometimes sweet potato or yams.

I also love the Cantonese style in which the rice bursts and it is thick. Usually Pork and Thousand Year Old Egg with ginger and scallion will hit the spot. Fish or “Lai Wan” style is good, too. I really miss Hing Lung in SF, they had the best, better than some of the spots in Monterey Park.

Congee is straight up Mom-Grandma 101 Cooking. Every Chinese kid was fed this when sick.


#11

I’m Chinese and have always had a relatively mild form of congee involving little mroe than stock, protein (chicken, fish, etc.), ginger, and green onions. Imagine my surprise and delight when I had arroz caldo at Sari Sari Store in the Grand Central Market. It had all sorts of veggies and just, stuff. It also had a healthy dose of vinegar and soy sauce, which gave it a deep color. I don’t know how to make it…yet. But, I would start with the ratios given by @ipsedixit and add lots of vinegar, soy sauce, and garlic, both fresh and fried, along with some chili oil. It might not be as soothing as one imagines one needs to treat a cold, but I think the assertive flavors would really help wake up your taste buds, which are generally pretty dormant at that time.


#12

My experiments with congee have resulted in a few observations:

  1. @ipsedixit is right. Rice can soak up enormous amounts of liquid, so the 8:1/9:1 ratio is very reasonable.

  2. Jasmine rice makes for the best congee.

  3. Preserved (salted) lemon is an excellent addition to plain congee.

  4. Top Ramen seasoning packets are an excellent addition when using leftover rice to make congee. Seriously excellent.


#13

You speak tautology?


#14

Si necesse fuerit.

(I need to pull out my Wheelocks to talk to you. :roll_eyes:)


#15

I had to look that up. I was a member of the National Latin Honor Society but that was in the mid60s!


#16

I have some medium grain brown rice that I got from Marukai market and I was wondering if you can use brown rice to make congee? Anyone ever tried it?


#17

You won’t get a good breakdown of rice/rice burst to make a thick congee if that is what you prefer.


#18

Thanks! Sounds like I should stick to the jasmine, then! Plenty of other uses for the brown rice.


#19

You can if the brown rice is already cooked.