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Eating to My Health – Faux Congee

Over Christmas weekend, I picked up my first cold of the season which, if it follows tradition, will be my one and only death cold of the winter. Typically, these lay waste to my body for about a week to two weeks, often ending up as bronchitis and sinus infections, but since I am heading off to vacation in a matter of hours, I knew that I needed to do something about it–and quickly.

So I turned to every single natural cure that I could come up with to supplement my generic cold medicine and kick this cold’s butt to the curb. First of all, I picked up echinacea, then I loaded up on Mr. Dormouse’s grandmother’s homemade grape juice (to die for!), and finally, I made congee, or faux-congee, because there is nothing authentic about a white girl who grew up in Africa making an Asian breakfast dish.

My first introduction to congee (or kanji, ganji, juk, cháo, chok, kayu, lúgaw, or jaou) came from my Korean roommate after college. She made this rice porridge with garlic, peas, and shredded chicken, and it was delicious. (She also told me she was making it “out of season,” but that she wasn’t as traditional as her Korean mother.) The second time that I made congee was after I purchased a Filipino cookbook from a used bookstore and discovered a recipe for rice porridge in its pages that was probably the only thing that didn’t intimidate the heck out of me.

When I made congee yesterday, I did so because it was the only recipe I could think of that would combine the classic western elements of chicken noodle soup–minus the noodles, plus rice–as well as use up the mushrooms in the fridge before vacation and could handle a ton of ginger and a ton of garlic.

For my recipe, you will need:

  • chicken or vegetarian broth
  • water
  • any kind of rice (disclaimer: I usually have basmati or jasmine rice in the house, so I don’t know how wild rice or brown rice would work)
  • chicken (optional)
  • mushrooms (I used cremini this time around, but try more flavorful mushrooms like shiitake)
  • green onions
  • ginger
  • garlic

I don’t believe in specific recipes unless I’m following one of Julia Child’s, so I go on my gut, and here’s what I came up with last night. I took a whole head of garlic, peeled it, and pressed it into one of my biggest pots. Then I chopped up the bunch of green onions, added that to the pot, added a splash of olive oil, and started those sauteing while I peeled and chopped about three or four inches worth of ginger root.

When the ginger root was ready to go into the pot, I added it along with a jar of homemade veggie broth and started cooking away while I sliced up my mushrooms. Those got added to the pot shortly, and from there, I chopped up some partially cooked chicken which also got added to the pot.

At this point, my ingredients were starting to overwhelm the broth in the pot, so I started adding water. You want to go for about ten cups of liquid total, but obviously adjust to your quantities as needed. Once everything was looking pretty cooked–really, once the chicken stopped looking pink–I added a cup and a half of rice to the pot and waited for the mix to boil. Once it boiled, I covered the pot, turned the heat to low, and set a timer for twenty minutes to cook the rice.

You can cook congee for as long as you want, depending on how broken down you want the rice to be. Since I just wanted to get all of that ginger and garlic into my system as quickly as possible, I only cooked it as long as needed, then dove right in. Warning: if you make congee with a whole head of garlic and three to four inches worth of ginger, it will be intense.

Enjoy!

By Dormouse

Bilingual (and a half) white girl who spent thirteen of her formative years in Africa. She is a writer, mentor, coffee drinker, wife, cat owner, language lover, photography dabbler, aspiring speaker, and a lifetime student. She keeps her writing going over at ellayneshaw.com.

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