La Pa Congee - Chinese Rice Porridge
I first came across a bowl of Congee, during my breakfast session at UNICEF Canteen at their Indian Country Office at Lodi Estate. I took if to be an oat porridge, but after the first spoonful I realised that it was more like the mushy rice dish my grand mom used to feed me when was unwell. Hey but it tasted loads better. I wasted a very little time to sneak back to the chef's counter and encountered him about the details of this dish, which I have already learnt, is called Congee and is made of Rice. But the dish got it's name from Tamil (Indian, Tamilnadu) word "Kanji". Surprising though, it is an ultimate comfort food. Specially when you have to fight your Monday Morning blues and yet have very little time for breakfast, this dish comes handy. Don't believe me... try it out.
Preparation Time : 45 minutes
Cooking Time : 1 hour 10 minutes
Difficulty : Medium
Serves : 4
- 10 dried Black Mushrooms (In case you can't find they , use normal button mushrooms instead)
- 1/4 cup dry Soybeans
- 10 Chestnuts
- 16 cups Water
- 2 cups Long-grain Rice
- 2 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
- 250 grams Bok Choy, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 12 fresh Water Chestnuts (you can use canned ones, in case you don't get fresh)
- 10 Red Dates (or Normal seed less Dates)
- 2 teaspoons Salt
- 250 grams skinless, boneless Chicken Breast, diced
Method :1) Place the dried black mushrooms (not in case of Button mushrooms) and soybeans into 2 separate large containers and cover each with several inches of cool water; let stand 8 hours to overnight.
2) Rinse and drain the mushrooms and soy beans. Trim tough stems from mushrooms; cut each mushroom into halves. In case you are using Button Mushrooms, wash them well under running water and drain, before chopping off the stems.
3) Bring a pot of water to a boil of medium high heat.
4) With a sharp knife, cut an X shape into the peel of each chestnut. Add chestnuts to the boiling water; cook until hot, 3 to 4 minutes.
5) Drain and plunge immediately into a large bowl of ice water to stop from cooking further. Drain and set aside.
6) When cool enough to handle, peel the chestnuts from the shells and discard the skins and peels. Set the peeled chestnuts aside.
7) Bring 16 cups water and long-grain rice to a boil in a large pot over medium high heat. Once it starts to boil, reduce heat to medium-low and cook at a simmer for 30 minutes.
8) Heat oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add Vegetable Oil to the wok .
9) Cook and stir bok choy in hot oil quickly, about 1 minute; add to the rice.
10) Stir peeled chestnuts, black mushrooms/button mushrooms, soy beans, water chestnuts, red dates/seedless dates, and salt into the rice. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 30 minutes.
11) Stir chicken into the rice mixture, bring again to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until chicken is no longer pink in the middle, about 10 minutes.
12) Once it is done, check the seasonings and adjust if required. For serving, check the Note below.
The Chinese eat congee for breakfast and supper. It is generally accompanied by eggs, salted peanuts, fish, or ham. This is a traditional congee in most Chinese Family. They prepared this congee with eight ingredients: red dates, fresh water chestnuts, soybeans, bok choy, fresh chestnuts, ham, or chicken. This is the typical congee which has been served for more than one hundred years.
Accompaniments of Congree Image Courtsy : userealbutter.com