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Chicken Congee

Every culture seems to have their own version of chicken noodle soup.  Whenever I’m sick with a cold or a sore throat, I’ll make chicken congee.  Its a snap to make, perfect for those times when I’d much rather be snuggled up in bed than slaving over a hot stove and chopping endless vegetables.  Its comforting, warm, and satisfying.

Not only is this recipe very inexpensive to make, but it is also versatile and forgiving.  Don’t have chicken?  Use pork, abalone, shrimp or whatever else you like.  Vegetarian?  I’ve made this with yams, carrots, and green onions, and the finished product is delish.  Just be sure to use vegetables that will hold up well during the cooking process, like carrots, yams, and potatoes.  Things like bok choy, broccoli, asparagus are not ideal.  Don’t even go there.  Toppings vary and seem to be very individual as well…I like to keep it simple with white pepper powder and sometimes green onions.  Sometimes I’ll add other things, but white pepper is a must.  I won’t even eat congee without it.  My husband likes to top it with stinky tofu and pork sung.  To each his own!

There are numerous recipes out there for xifan, congee, or jook, as the Cantonese call it.  This is my tried-and-true version and the “skeleton” recipe I use for congee.  🙂

Simple Chicken Congee

1 c. sweet rice*
1/3 c. long-grain jasmine rice*
2 skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces or shredded
5-6 cloves garlic, chopped
11 c. purified water (conversely, you can use chicken broth to impart more flavor, but I think the chicken adds some flavor during the cooking process)
3 stalks green onions, finely chopped
Dash of kosher salt
Dash of white pepper powderMeasuring rice

*Be sure you use the small, plastic, clear rice cup for measuring the rice–this comes with every rice cooker and is very different from the American measuring cup.  If you use the American measuring cup, you’ll end up with way too much rice and the congee will be more mush than anything.

Place both types of rice together in a large pot and wash the rice several times until the water is no longer cloudy.  Heat the pot on the stove, over medium heat.  Add the garlic.  Before the rice burns, quickly add 10 cups of water, stirring once or twice.  I usually start out with 10 cups of water, then add more water as needed during the cooking process.  This is to get the consistency of the porridge to my liking (more thick than thin or soupy).  This is a personal preference, so if you like the congee to be more soupy, use water instead.

Lastly, add the chicken and a dash of kosher salt.  The chicken may be defrosted, pre-chopped and added, or may be still a frozen solid chicken breast.  I’ve cooked it both ways.  If the chicken is frozen, I just toss it in, let it cook, and near the end, I’ll take it out and either hand-shred or chop the chicken, then return it to the congee.  See? Versatile and perfect for when you want congee NOW (or an hour from now) and can’t wait for pesky things like meat to defrost.

Bring the congee up to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Let simmer uncovered for approximately one hour, stirring occasionally.  Keep stirring to a minimum, so as not to break up the rice grains too much.  Add water if the consistency of the porridge is getting too thick for your liking.  When done, garnish with minced green onions and white pepper or with the condiments of your choice.  Enjoy!

Makes 6-10 servings, depending on how big a bowl is used.  🙂

sweet-ricePS: I recently bought the Gao Nep Thuong Hang brand of sweet rice for the first time, thinking that all sweet rice should taste the same.  Not so!  I used this sweet rice in my latest batch of chicken congee and the taste and texture was markedly different…it was definitely not as good as previous batches of congee.  Seeing as to how only the brand of rice had changed (I did everything else the same as usual), I figured it must be the new rice.  In the future, I’ll stick to using only my trusted Habukai sweet rice (see left, pic from amazon.com)