*PLEASE FEEL FREE TO SKIP MY MUSINGS AND GO DIRECTLY TO THE RECIPE.
Hello, friends. I hope that you are having a gorgeous spring with lots and lots of beautiful flowers of all shapes, colors and sizes!
Mr Sweetie and I are doing well although — I still cannot believe that it actually happened– we got sick with Covid! They say that with Covid it is a matter of not “if but when.” I really do hope and pray that you all dodge this virus and remain healthy. I used to say that my hope was for us to ride this pandemic and never get infected. As I have often written in my posts, we have been so careful. We went out to eat just on a handful of occasions since March 2020 and they were all outdoors. We had our food delivered. We mask at all times. In fact, we opted to not join our family trip in Hawaii last April because of my fear of getting sick. Thankfully, everyone (my parents, siblings, entire family) did not get Covid while Mr Sweetie and I who remained home got infected! *face plant*
All it really took was one co-worker who tested positive after attending a concert. With the lifting of mask mandate, Mr Sweetie and his colleagues stopped masking at work. His co-worker got sick then Mr Sweetie, their entire office and the families of employees including me followed later. We both got the all the yucky stuff including the fever, sore throat, congestion…..He bounced back after 4 days while I had to stay home sick for 9 days. It was truly like an annoying flu in addition to losing my sense of smell and taste which have not yet fully returned 100 percent even now 3 weeks later. Other than that, I am truly on the mend, back to good health and regained my strength.
Speaking of losing my sense of taste and smell, it was truly fascinating. I did not completely lose my sense of taste but food tasted one dimensional and the flavors were muted. I could not taste the spices. Food tasted sickeningly sweeter and saltier when they were not. The entire 9 days were a blur. I barely ate but still tried to cook. Interestingly, I enjoyed the quiche, apple and blueberry pies that Mr Sweetie brought me. I cooked vegan mac and cheese which I ate a lot as well as orzo soup (sans sun-dried tomatoes). And also made and subsisted on lots and lots of congee! Despite not being able to taste the flavors of the food, I enjoyed the texture instead.
Before I move on to the 30-minute (or less) congee recipe, I wish you all the best of health, blessings and happy times this spring or whatever season you are currently in. Please stay safe and healthy!
Basic 30-Minute (or Less) Congee
I am guessing that every culture has its own version of the rice porridge. This comfort food in a bowl is known by different names — porridge, congee or jook. In the Philippines, we call it lugaw. They might differ in the grains used, the consistency and the toppings or filings that go in them. They can be sweet or savory.
Americans and Europeans have oatmeal or sweet porridge. In the Philippines I grew up eating arroz caldo (thick chicken rice porridge with fried garlic, ginger, green onions and lime). I love arroz caldo but it takes a long time to make. (See my recipe here.)
Congee or jook which is Asian rice porridge traditionally uses just rice and water. Yes! (I also always drizzle mine with a little bit of oil for silky texture or add sliced ginger but that is totally optional.) I must have eaten a hundred plus bowls of congee in my life. It used to take me over an hour to achieve a creamy silk-like consistency of this dish. I make congee when it is cold, when I am sick or I just want to feel cozy.
When I stayed home while I was sick (I still cannot believe it!), I made congee three different times and consumed 3 pots of this porridge. It is hot, comforting and it really goes through you because it is really just mostly water. LOL!
Congee is the easiest thing in the world to cook. There are variations all over the internet including recipes that include chicken, pork, turkey, shrimp or really nothing in it except the rice and water. You can put the kitchen sink in your congee while cooking or toppings after you are done cooking. It is really up to you.
A pot of congee would typically take over an hour to simmer to make the rice very soft and silky. Until I discovered THE SECRET!
The secret is to FREEZE THE RICE before cooking. All it takes to prepare is to wash the rice, drain, put the washed rice in a zip-loc bag and drizzle the rice with about a tablespoon of oil (optional). Then leave it in the freezer for at least 8 hours until you are ready to make congee. It is that simple. Freezing the washed rice breaks down the rice into tiny pieces so it saves time having to simmer the rice for over an hour. Traditionally this is the amount of time needed to make a decent pot of congee. After discovering this shortcut, I now have a couple of bags of frozen rice in my fridge for those moments when I am craving congee.
I have seen other recipes on the internet that only require less time to cook pre-frozen rice into congee. Some only require 15-20 minutes. I timed mine and it took close to 30 minutes. The key is to watch the pot as congee is notorious for spilling over once boiled! Once you get the desired silky consistency, your congee is ready whether it is 15 or 30 minutes. This is how I make my congee:
YOU WILL NEED:
- 1 c jasmine rice
- About 7 cups of water
- 1 TBSP oil (vegetable oil or Extra Virgin Olive Oil) – optional
- Bouillon to taste. (I use Better Than Boullion) – optional
- 3 pieces sliced ginger -optional
- Cilantro – optional
- Salt and white peppter to taste
- Wash the rice, drain, and transfer to a zip-loc bag or freezer-safe container. Add about a tablespoon of oil for silky texture (optional). Leave it in the freezer overnight or at least 8 hours.
- Bring 7 cups of water (salt and/or boullion if using) to a boil. Add the frozen rice (no need to thaw) and bring it to a boil again. Stir the rice from time to time to prevent sticking.
- Cover and reduce the heat to a low simmer until thick and creamy for about 15-30 minutes.
- Add the julienned ginger, cilantro sprigs and desired toppings.
WHAT TO PUT:
Now this is the fun part. It is really up to you to put whatever you want in your congee after it cooks. Your basic congee is like your blank canvas. It can be bland but you can add a variety of topping combinations to make it tasty. In my photo, I added crispy chili sauce, cilantro, green onions and soft-boiled eggs. Here are some possibilities:
- Century eggs (also known as 100 year old eggs): These gelatinous dark-green preserved duck or chicken eggs make the porridge very rich and creamy. I should warn you that it is an acquired taste and texture if you did not grow up with it or not a very adventurous eater. FUNNY CHILDHOOD STORY: My foodie dad brought these eggs home one day when I was about 7 years old. My 6 year old brother cried after he had a bite and asked that he brushed his teeth that very minute. LOL! (Andrew Zimmern fans — if you want a new bizarre food challenge in you life and you have not had century eggs, this is your moment! (I love century eggs by the way!)
- Mushrooms — shitake, woodear, brown, etc
- Cooked meats – beef, chicken, duck, pork, intestines, turkey
- Seafood – fish, shrimp, abalone, lobster, octopus
- Eggs – raw, poached or boiled eggs
SEASONINGS AND TOPPINGS
- Chili oil | Soy sauce| Fish sauce | Sesame oil | White pepper | Green onions | Cilantro | Roasted peanuts
The best part is congee is healthy, costs pennies to make and will make you feel better right away!
Did you make 30-Minute (or Less) Congee? Please let me know by leaving a comment below.