Congee is a rice porridge served throughout most of Asia. Owing to its easy digestibility, it’s usually given to people who aren’t feeling well—chicken soup of the East, so to speak. It typically is made by adding a small amount of rice to plenty of water and cooked anywhere from half an hour to several hours, depending on the culture. Nowadays, many dim sum restaurants include congee as part of their repertoire. Mom used to give okayu (the Japanese version) to me and my brother with umeboshi (salted plum) when we were under the weather. As they were growing up our daughters became beneficiaries, though they now have an aversion to it because they claim it reminds them of when they were sick and probably because it’s rather bland.
For many years now, we’ve made congee for breakfast with oatmeal and chicken broth, not because we’re ailing but because it’s a satisfying meal in its own right. We add minced green onions and cilantro, a dollop of fukujinzuke (Japanese pickled vegetables) and, if on hand, minced or shredded leftover chicken.
4 cups chicken broth
½ cup quick-cooking oatmeal
2 tbsp. minced green onions
2 tbsp. minced cilantro
½ cup shredded leftover chicken (optional)
for garnish, additional minced green onions and cilantro
Bring broth and oatmeal to a boil in a 2-quart saucepan, reduce heat to very low and simmer gently for at least 30 minutes with saucepan lid partially ajar (otherwise the oatmeal might boil over and make for a messy cleanup). Whisk occasionally to help break down the oatmeal. Add green onions, cilantro and (if using) chicken and heat for an additional minute. Serve with fukujinzuke and additional minced onions and cilantro.
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