Congee: a savory breakfast alternative for gut health
Updated: Jan 30
Are you looking for slow-cooked recipes to nourish your body for winter? Are you tired of the same bowl of bland oatmeal for breakfast? Let me introduce you to a delicious alternative that will blow your mind. Enter Congee.
What is Congee?
Congee or rice porridge is a traditional Chinese breakfast food. It is the chicken noodle soup of the East. Congee is characterized by having a high water-to-grain ratio and simmered at low temperatures for hours. Rice is typically used, but you could substitute it with any grain (quinoa, barley, millet, brown rice) or bean (mung bean, adzuki bean). The long cooking time breaks down the starch in the process and allows for easier digestion. Cooking at low temperatures allow the nutrients to be preserved, and the silky texture of the congee hydrates the body.
Health Benefits of Congee
White rice is a balanced nutrition source that contains carbohydrates, proteins, and many trace minerals that the body needs for metabolic activities. According to traditional Chinese medicine, white rice is neutral and has a cleansing effect on the system. It is helpful for gut health because it strengthens the energy (qi) and blood of the Spleen and Stomach meridians, which are responsible for many digestive processes in the body. This can then enhance digestion and heal the stomach lining. It can be helpful if you suffer from digestive conditions such as constipation, acid reflux, gastritis, or indigestion.
This savory congee recipe is beneficial for the winter months. Warming spices such as cinnamon, cloves, star anise, and ginger speed up overall blood circulation, boost gut health, and aid in immune function. This recipe is savory because that is my preference for breakfast. However, if you prefer sweet, I recommend omitting the mushrooms and garlic and preparing the same way. The best part of congee is the limitless toppings. I’ve listed optional toppings for savory or sweet congees. Enjoy!
Savory Congee Recipe
4 slices of ginger
1 star anise
2 whole cloves
Half cinnamon stick
2 garlic cloves smashed
1 cup of white rice (or grain/legume of your choice: barley, millet, brown rice, quinoa, mung bean, adzuki bean)
4 sliced shiitake mushrooms (I used dried that I rehydrated in water because they have more flavor, but you could use fresh as well. Substitute for any mushroom you have on hand)
10 cups of water, stock, or bone broth
Salt to taste (optional (if your stock or bone broth is salted, I would wait until it’s finished to taste and add more salt as needed)
Thinly sliced scallions
Toasted sesame seeds
Egg (fried, poached, soft-boiled)
Splash of soy sauce or fish sauce
Splash of chili oil, chili crisp, or chili flakes
Rinse the rice, then soak it in water for an hour. This allows the rice to break down easier during the cooking process.
Soak dried shiitake mushrooms in water to rehydrate
Drain rice and mushrooms. Squeeze water out of mushrooms, remove tough stems, and slice.
Add all the ingredients to a large pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then simmer on low heat, with the lid half covered for 2-3 hours. Stir occasionally to avoid sticking to the bottom. Congee is done when the grains disintegrate into the liquid to reach a uniformly dense texture.
Pick out whole spices and ginger slices.
Top with any of the suggested ingredients before serving.