After very little sleep on the passage over, Señor Valencia caught the common cold. Sore throat, sniffling nose, swollen lymph nodes, and all the general symptoms danced about his head. He’s been held up in bed for days. Soups have provided the perfect nourishment for ill for centuries. The Chinese have been eating congee for centuries. Congee basically consists of water and rice. The two are cooked so long that the starch in the rice begins to break down and thicken the water yielding a consistency similar to that of oatmeal. In ancient times, people named the thick congee chan, the watery one chi or mi. The characteristics of congee are that it is easy to digest and very simple to cook; therefore, it is the perfect nourishment for the weak and very (not very, its just a cold) Daniel. Congee is one of the traditional Chinese foods and has thousands of years of history in China. According to the Zhou Book (whatever the hell that is?), Emperor Huang Di was first to cook congee with millet as the ingredient”, that may be considered the earliest record of congee. While most recognize the dish as being of Chinese origin, porridge is pretty much a global phenomena and has been since for centuries. All over the world, porridge has been used to feed the sick and the poor. Grain has traditionally always been a plentiful in expensive ingredient. Porridge takes inexpensive a step further. One pot of porridge can serve a family of four with a single cup of grain.
Moving on from international porridge, congee can take the form of one of two: white and colorful. White congee is literally white rice boiled to oblivion. Whereas colorful congee is rice braised to oblivion with a rich flavorful stock serving as the liquid that will inevitably break down the starches in the rice. For my little experiment, I chose to cook up a colorful broth, flavored with ginger, garlic, chicken and bacon. And damn, I did good…
10 c of chicken broth
1 ½ c rice (I used a mixture of brown, black and red rice)
1 lbs shrimp, peeled and tails off
4 scallions, white parts and green parts separated and chopped
¼ lbs bacon, chopped
2 inches ginger, skinned and thinly sliced
1 head of garlic, each clove minced
In a heavy bottomed stock pot add the broth, bacon, white part of the scallions, ginger and garlic. Bring all the ingredients to a boil. Simmer for 30 minutes. Add the rice. Bring to a boil. Simmer for 2 hours, stirring frequently. Continue to cook the congee until the liquid resembles something similar to oatmeal. Add the shrimp in the last 30 minutes. One trick is to add all the ingredients to a rice cooker and just set it to the congee function over night. Garnish with the chopped scallions. Bon appétit!