Congee I : Pepper Beef and Bean Sprout

Friday, September 26, 2008

Congee is something I used to see as bland and boring, but now see as a kind of miracle food - simple and comforting but infinitely variable and nourishing. It can be as simple as rice and water or it can showcase luxury ingredients. I've wanted to post about congee for a long, long time but my attempts to make it never turned out right - no matter how long I cooked the rice, it just got soggy instead of breaking down and getting creamy. I wasted a lot of good chicken stock one time, and got discouraged.

After a little research (and a lot of leftover rice after a dinner) I tried again by boiling about half and half cooked rice and water, then bringing to a simmer and adding water til it was a little thicker than congee. This worked great and made a congee base which I am keeping in the fridge, and using for a few different experiments.

The easiest kind of congee to make is just by heating the base, then chopping a few things and throwing them in and simmering long enough for the additions to cook or the flavours to blend. It's a pain if you have to cook things before adding.

The pepper beef is like deli roast beef, but a little spicy and the bean sprouts are not the baby ones that you buy in the west, but overgrown enough to have lots of little green leaves. You can use any cured meat and delicate green that is available - watercress or even lettuce would be fine.

For two small bowls: Heat 2 cups congee base and prepare 1 cup chopped greens, 2 tbs diced pepper beef. Stir in the pepper beef right away and simmer for a few minutes, then add the greens. Simmer for about ten minutes and taste for salt.


Pepper said...

A few chopped green onions on top really brightens this up, (flavour I mean, not colour). I didn't have any at the time.

Stargazer said...

I really enjoy your site--and these posts on congee are very helpful. I make congee semi-regularly, about 1 part rice to 5 parts water seems to do it, but it has to cook slowly for a long time. I'll be trying it in a slow cooker to see how that works.

I love it with bits of leftover ginger chicken stirred in and topped with green onions, or with soy eggs and onion. Green onion is almost a necessity for me with congee. But I look forward to trying the sweet version you use in your next post.

Stargazer said...

I also meant to mention, good idea on using up leftover rice this way--you know the rice will be cooked through, and you still get the creaminess from cooking with the extra water for a while.

Anonymous said...

Does brown rice work or do you have to use white rice?

Pepper said...

Red or brown rice is ok but usually it's mixed with white.