Congee For Dinner (And Breakfast, And Lunch…)

This is us on our honeymoon, at the Night Market in Bangkok (my favorite part of our many-leg trip; other stops included Phuket, the Phi-Phi Islands, and Bali). Bangkok was nothing short of the most incredible, alive place I’ve ever been in my life, but we may have gotten a bit over-excited and partaken enthusiastically of the Chang beer during the evening pictured at left.

Fortunately, the very next morning we were introduced to the wonders of congee, a rice porridge popular in many Asian countries, and more or less a hangover cure in a bowl. It’s also delicious unaccompanied by a hangover, and can be combined with tons of different ingredients for added flavor, so it’s perfect for serving to a large group with disparate tastes.

Congee is silly-easy to make: you just bring 1 cup rice with 8 cups water (more if you like your porridge thinner) to a boil, and then turn down the heat and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on how you prefer the consistency (I like it cooked a little longer so that the rice grains break down a bit). You can add a few slices of ginger or a little chicken broth to the pot if you want built-in flavor, but it’s not necessary. Once it’s done to your liking, just salt to taste and serve in big bowls.

The traditional (and most fun) way to serve congee is alongside small bowls filled with garnishes, so that your guests can adjust the seasonings to their liking. I served our congee with the flavorings pictured below…because they’re what I found in our refrigerator:

L to R: Tropical onion mustard, Murray River sea salt, sour cherry preserve, lemon juice (the latter two didn’t end up working particularly well, just FYI).

L to R: Chopped green onions, Sriracha, dill, fresh ginger.

Other suggested garnishes: soy sauce, chopped peanuts, chile paste, cilantro, egg, slivers of whitefish or squid (add seafood raw and let it cook right in the hot porridge), sesame oil, roasted pork, chopped garlic.

My favorite combos: a dab of butter, fresh sliced ginger & green onions or soy sauce, green onions & chopped peanuts.

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