Rice has been a staple carbohydrate source for many living in Asian communities. It is common in Asian households to hear of someone’s desire to eat “congee” in the morning or when they are sick. Congee is not a term commonly used in Western society, but all it refers to is boiling rice with excess amounts of water, in order to form a hot bowl that contains something similar to a porridge consistency- a pasty-texture in soup form if you will.
You might wonder, could eat congee instead of steamed rice be more beneficial from a health perspective? Surprisingly, congee was prescribed for medicinal purposes during the Tang Dynasty in China, around 1400 years ago. The reason behind this boils down to the high moisture content that is found within congee. This moisture content can help maintain fluidity in the stomach and intestines, helping to remove waste from our body. This fluidity often decreases because of either age or chronic diseases. Congee, in a paste form, can be directly absorbed by our bodies and can, therefore, reduce the load on our digestive systems.
Thus, congee is a great breakfast choice, as eating hard-to-digest foods for breakfast may negatively affect digestion throughout the day. By contrast, eating congee with different steamed or fermented vegetables and fruits, can provide both essential vitamins/minerals for our bodies and also some probiotic benefits as well- which is a great way to start the day! Furthering congee’s traditional roots, it has actually been common practice for Asian families to introduce congee as one of the first complementary foods to feed an infant after the 6-month mark of exclusive breastfeeding!
If you are ever in need of a warm meal while you freshen up after lunch or work, try cooking up some congee by simply adding a 1:3 ratio of rice to water in a pot. Boil the rice for 2 hours until the mixture becomes pastier, and then add steamed or lightly sauteed garlic, peppers, and veggies on top. You can also serve it alongside some pickled veggies, more steamed vegetables, a poached egg, or any other small side dishes you want to get creative with! Congee is a great way to try out rice in a way you have never tried it before, while also adding a little refresh your digestive system!