Brrr it’s been cold here lately, and on chilly days like this, there’s nothing better than a hot bowl of congee to warm you up! Congee, or “jook,” is the Chinese equivalent to porridge. It’s the ultimate Chinese comfort food, and every Chinese kid has grown up eating this for breakfast or sometimes lunch. My husband loves it with fish fillet, and I enjoy it with pork and uh, special Chinese egg (I’ll skip the explanation on that one for now). Yummy stuff.
I am Chinese American and I have struggled to get the right congee (or “jook”) consistency for the last 10 years. But it has eluded me time and time again. How could this super easy staple in Chinese cooking be so hard for me?
I’ve tried cooking it over the stovetop for 6-7 hours.
I’ve tried it in the slow cooker for 4-6 hours.
I’ve tried it in the Instant Pot for 2 hours (it’s supposed to be only 30 mins).
I’ve tried each of these methods MULTIPLE TIMES and have only really liked it maybe twice. But I could never replicate the consistency of the one that I liked. Was it the type of rice I used? Had I used day-old refrigerated rice? Was it the temperature that I cooked it at? Was it the liquid to rice ratio? WHAT DID I DO RIGHT AND WHY CAN’T I DO IT AGAIN?
It was embarrassing. Ben was, as always, encouraging, but I started giving up after maybe 5 years of experimenting. Once we had kids, though, I was more determined than ever to get this down. Everybody else’s mom was feeding their kids jook. I had to figure this out. It continued to elude me. The congee was never thick enough, the rice not broken down quite right, the consistency disappointing.
And then one of the savviest and most knowledgeable moms I have ever come across posted a tip that CHANGED MY LIFE: FREEZE THE RICE FIRST. That’s it, folks. Just wash your uncooked rice, stick it in the freezer for at least 8 hours, and then sciencey magic happens and not only does the congee consistency turn out great, but supposedly you can make it in just 20 minutes over the stovetop! Here’s more on the sciencey magic and a detailed and tasty-looking recipe you can try. The main thing to remember is that you really do need to wash, or at least wet your rice before freezing.
Sweet! It worked perfectly the first time, and I am now looking forward to using this method again and again! For me, I keep it simple. I make jook whenever I buy a rotisserie chicken from Costco or Sprouts. I throw in a cup of (frozen) rice with about 7 cups of liquid (mostly chicken stock… I know, I’m a cheater) and the bigger bones and carcass from the rotisserie chicken. Once the porridge timer goes off, I vent it, take out the bones, add in about 2 cups of shredded chicken, and it’s ready to serve.
So tasty and simple! Congee believe it? 😀 HEHE.
Instant Pot Congee Recipe (Stove top recipe below)
Makes about 8 cups
Instructions for Instant Pot
To cook over the stove top: