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“The first time I heard of Jiangnan as yu mi zhi xiang – the ‘land of fish and rice’ – was when my family and I were driving along a small road near Taihu, ‘Lac Tai’, with a beautiful field of golden rice gently swaying with the breeze to one side,” writes Betty Liu in her beautiful cookbook, “My Shanghai: Recipes and Stories From a City on the Water “.
Of the many recipes in the book, nearly half contain rice in some form. There are pumpkin rice cakes with red bean paste, rice-encrusted pork chops steamed in lotus leaves, sticky rice rolls filled with black sesame seeds, and more. others. But one of the simplest rice recipes is for zhōu or xī fàn – often called by its anglicized name, congee.
A simple rice porridge, in its most basic version, is a combination of rice and water in a ratio of about 1 part rice and 6 to 12 parts water. The rice is boiled and simmered until the grains release all their starch, thickening the water as they break down.
Known as juk or jook in Korea, bubur in Indonesia, lugaw in the Philippines, teochew in Singapore, and dozens of other names around the world, there are also an endless variety of ways to do it. “You can do it with plain water or any type of broth…you can vary its flavor with spices, dried roots, other grains, vegetables,” Liu tells me over the phone from Boston, where she is completing a surgical residency. Congee can be eaten plain, but is almost always topped with a few tasty bites before serving.
His congee recipe is meant to be a base that home cooks can play with, adding or subtracting liquid to achieve their ideal texture, augmenting with other grains or vegetables for flavor, and finally topping a variety protein and marinated, preserved or fresh. vegetables.
In her book, Liu suggests topping your congee with pickled vegetables, a millennium egg, a salted duck egg, or chilli fermented tofu. But the possibilities are limitless. “When I was a kid, we each had our bowl of congee and then a little dish of fermented bean curd. We would take a spoonful of congee and then use our chopsticks to scoop out some of the fermented bean curd,” Liu explains. Today, she loves it with a drizzle of soy sauce and pickled mustard greens or kimchi.
“But you can use whatever you want or whatever you have on hand. Leftover duck or turkey from Thanksgiving is always good in colder months,” Liu says, also noting that you can rehydrate dried mushrooms, use that liquid to cook congee, and sauté mushrooms to serve on top. .
For spring congee, she suggests sautéed or pickled green garlic or ramps — made into pesto or blistered in a hot skillet — fresh peas, herbs and a drizzle of lemon juice.
Italian basil pesto is an easy and versatile summer sauce
In the summer, corn is ideal over congee, either simply steamed kernels or fresh mashed corn, tossed into each bowl. Quartered cherry tomatoes and hard-boiled eggs? Fried eggplant and zucchini? Small shrimps just cooked? Yes, yes and yes.
“Growing up, congee was never served the same way,” Liu says. “A message I want to get across is that I think some people think Chinese food is intimidating. But like all home cooking, there are no real rules with congee. It’s your cooking, it’s are your rules!
- Instead of rice >> try this with another grain, like farro or buckwheat.
- To make your congee tastier, instead of water >> use any kind of stock or broth.
To make this recipe faster, plan ahead: briefly rinse the rice in cold water, drain, then freeze in a resealable bag. Once frozen, the water covering the grains will help them break down more quickly. Boil frozen rice for just 20 minutes, instead of the full hour, to achieve the same porridge texture.
Storage: Leftover congee can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.
Where to find: Dried lily bulbs, dried mung beans, pickled mustard greens, millenary eggs, and chilli fermented tofu can be found at Asian markets or online.
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- 8 cups water, chicken broth, mushroom broth or vegetable broth, plus more as needed
- 3/4 cup short or medium grain white rice
For optional add-ons
- 1 dried lily bulb
- 2 tablespoons dried mung beans, soaked in water overnight
For suggested optional toppings
- Pickled mustard greens or other pickles
- Millennial egg or hard-boiled egg
- Tofu fermented in Chili or other
- Soya sauce
- Green onions
In a large saucepan over high heat, bring the water or broth to a boil. Add the rice, along with either or both of the optional additions, and bring back to a boil.
Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring periodically to prevent the rice from sticking, until the rice grains have “bloomed”, or have opened up and begun to split, and the congee has a thick, porridge-like consistency, about 45 minutes. Add more broth or water, if you want a looser congee. If you want it thicker, uncover and bake longer.
Serve with your choice of toppings, tossed into the congee to flavor it, or added on top, to eat between dollops of porridge.
Per serving (1 1/2 cups congee; excluding toppings)
Calories: 128; Total fat: 0 g; Saturated fat: 0 g; Cholesterol: 0mg; sodium: 2mg; Carbohydrates: 28g; Dietary fibre: 1 g; Sugars: 0 g; Protein: 2g.
This analysis is an estimate based on the available ingredients and this preparation. It should not replace the advice of a dietitian or nutritionist.
Adapted from “My Shanghai” by Betty Liu (Harper Design, 2021).
Tested by G. Daniela Galarza; questions by e-mail to [email protected].
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Check out this week’s Eat Voraciously recipes:
Monday: Polenta with balsamic shallot leaves
Tuesday: Feta with herb-marinated tofu