Friday, June 5, 2009


Yeah! I finally made congee/chao. For those of you who are in the dark, congee is a soupy rice dish served in (probably) every Asian country. Congee is the Chinese word for it. In Vietnamn its chao. My dad's Okinawan wife makes it for him when he's hung over or sick for some reason. My brother had a variant of it in Thailand for breakfast. Its sick food, comfort food, and food thats good for you when your mouth hurts.

One of the nutty Vietnamese guys I work with keeps saying "that's easy, any child can make that". Well, yes, it is easy, but any soVietnamese child was raised on it. Thats one reason its so great - it's so easy it was no problem to cook it up even though I was feeling lazy. I browsed around on the net for some basic ideas, and winged it.

Basically, here's what you do;
I guess I used too much rice - I used 2 cups jasmine rice and 8 cups water (you really want the rice to break down) but I could have used 1 cup rice and 6 cups water (so Hung tells me). I suppose that would have been enough too - I kept having to add more water, so who knows how much I ended up with. And it was still thicker than I've had it elsewhere.

I had about a pound of chicken thigh meat which I cut up (literally! who needs a cutting board?!) which I heated up a few pieces at a time in my beloved cast iron skillet before tossing them in the pot (perhaps this helped? I don't know).
I also cut off and peeled a nub of ginger which I thinly sliced and tossed in. I also threw in three cloves of garlic, thinly sliced. The only other spices/condiments I added were a few good pinches of kosher salt, a dash of soy sauce, some fresh ground pepper, a dash of crushed red pepper flakes and a light drizzle of sesame oil at the end. That sounds like a lot of flavouring, but its really not. Its very subtle. I think what you taste and smell mostly is the ginger and the jasmine rice. It not quite bland (which is good when your stomach is upset) but not spicy either.

Just before dishing it up I chopped up some green onion and tossed it in.

The giver of cast iron skillets has had a terrible sore throat lately and has been feeling very sick, and this is just what was needed.

It was filling, satisfying, mostly healthy (I wonder about that chicken thigh meat) and soothing. Besides all that, it was simple. A few cheap ingredients and very little prep work. Just toss a bunch of stuff and cook some meat on the side if you so desire. For a bit more work I've read that it is often served with a bunch of condiments like chopped cilantro, peanuts, chilies etc.

If you have any other congee suggestions let me know! I think I'll have fun playing around with this.


  1. Sounds like it was more fun cooking than eating. I recommend adding som of julia chiles (?) favorite flovorings. But, nonetheless, eating it is fine too. It is not something I crave though - just serves its purpose of easy to eat and nourishing.

  2. Hey - I think you have the rice book - wasn't there anything in there about it too?

  3. The pictures were a great touch; very professional. I think the chicken thight meat would have been a nice, flavorful touch, and if you removed any visible fat and skin, relatively healthy as well. I guess I will give it a try. In my case, I might add bulk chicken free powdered bouillon from Whole Foods and serve the chicken on the side.

  4. UPDATE: The guys say I should have put a lid on it - then I wouldn't have had to keep adding water, and it would be done quicker. Next time!

  5. man, i've completely forgotten how to make this. you've jogged my memory. did you toast the rice before putting it in the pot? that's helps it to break up and be more porridge-y. and browned onions are really good in there too and throwing a whole chicken breast in there gives it a lot of flavor. vietnamese also has a dip for the chicken: just pepper,salt, chili pepper if you want, and lime. my stomach is flipping all over the place writing this. the shake just didn't do it for me. good job, bug! looks delish (she's turning vietnamese....i think she's turning vietnamese...i really think so....or something asian)


which is more important? i.e. which would you choose at the exclusion of the other?