I love congee! I love Jook!
Chinese congee is usually very mild. Bland even. Even the chicken and scallop version I had for breakfast not long ago in Hong Kong could have done with a little more seasoning. So it was a delight for me to try versions of this dish that other asian countries had to offer.
Congee is not something that is found easily in Auckland city. Kiwis don’t really dig it and it’s considered poor people food by those who love it. Not something you would order when you eat out.
What’s the difference?
The easiest way to differentiate between rice soup and rice porridge is that rice soup is cooked rice in a flavoured broth.
In rice soup, the rice and the soup are separate layers. You can have a spoonful of soup and then a spoonful of rice if you please or you can have both at once. Much like noodle soup.
Rice porridge has the consistency of porridge because the rice granules are cooked until they break and thicken the soup. Rice porridge is usually mild or bland and is one continuous texture throughout.
A few places in Thailand and in Lao served this version: Rice granules in a salty, peppery, chicken soup. Too salty for me and the rice sinks and separates from the soup – lacking the creamy consistency that makes rice porridge so comforting to me.
I met the best rice porridge, congee, jook, whatever-you-wanna-call-it after an unforgettable morning of hot air ballooning. I found it at The Organic Mulberry Farm Cafe in Vang Vieng, Laos.
I did good. It was early in the morning and I saw all the locals out front of the cafe eating it. Always respect the fact the locals are tucking into one particular dish.
I pointed and ordered a bowl of rice soup plus a deep fried bread thing that was the short, chubby, cousin to the Chinese Yuw Jah Gway.
Because I can’t just go to Vang Vieng every time I want breakfast, I tried to recreate this dish at home. I think I got close.
Ok, so they didn’t use bacon in the Laotian version, but I’m pretty sure it was thinly sliced pork with chicken.
Laotian inspired Rice Porridge
Makes 3-4 servings
1 cup of rice
6 garlic cloves
1 shallot (or half an onion)
1 piece of streaky bacon
1 chicken breast (not both breasts, just the one)
- Finely chop the bacon and the chicken.
- Put into a tupperware container with a little salt and oil. Mix well and store in the refrigerator until required.
- Finely slice the garlic and shallot.
- Put a little oil in a hot pan and quickly fry the garlic and shallot. Do not burn.
- Take off heat and refrigerate until required.
- In a decent sized pot, boil the rice in water. Water. Plenty of it. Ummmm…I don’t measure how much water I use when I make rice porridge. I usually just half fill the pot and then add more if/when it gets too thick. I don’t find that it is too watery, but if it is too watery, I guess you just keep boiling until it’s right.
- Bring to the boil.
- Cook the porridge on a low heat for about an hour. Add water if it starts to get thick enough to worry about sticking to the bottom of the pan. The rice granules need to start breaking up and become porridgy.
- At this stage I take the rice porridge off the heat, cool and store in the refrigerator until breakfast.
- When you are ready to eat, spoon out one portion of porridge into a small pot, stir in a heaped tablespoon of the bacon and chicken and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Serve in a bowl and spoon in a teaspoon of garlic/shallot mixture and garnish with chopped coriander and spring onion as you see fit.
- A drizzle of soy sauce is optional.