I know most people don't think of rice porridge as a health food—certainly not on the scale of green juice and kale—but congee is an ancient remedy in Traditional Chinese Medicine for a troubled or worn-out digestive system. With just a few ingredients simmered low and slow on the stovetop, it's also the perfect homemade dish when you or your budget is feeling stretched.
One particular benefit is hydration, due to the amount of water absorbed by the rice grains throughout the cooking process. Chicken stock or bone broth, which is the second key ingredient for congee, is also hydrating and provides a rich source of collagen. This protein is required to repair and heal the lining of the GI tract, which can be damaged due to diet and lifestyle stressors. Plus, the easier your meal is to digest—and in the case of congee, that's very easy—the better equipped you are to reap the rewards of any protein and minerals coming in. Did you know that nearly 70% of our daily energy is spent on breaking our foods down. It's no wonder why we feel so tired after a big meal.
Congee can be a go to food for anyone struggling with poor digestive health, fatigue, loose stools, candida, leaky gut, weak muscles ( due to its ability to tonify the spleen in TCM), dehydration, low mineral count, diverticultsis, crohn's, postparatum, anyone recovering from an illness or chemotherapy, and so much more.
How to make Congee (stove top version)
Traditional congee requires little more than white rice and animal protein—usually starchy sushi rice and some bone-in chicken parts—and a pot. For a smoother congee, go with a 10:1 ratio of liquid to rice. For a thicker gruel-like congee, go with a ratio of 7:1. The recipe below is designed for a happy medium. You can simply simmer the rice in water with whole chicken legs or thighs to create your own broth as it cooks, or if you keep homemade bone broth on hand, you can omit the chicken altogether and use a flavorful stock as a base. Same goes for vegetarian versions: Just use a veggie stock and throw in a few whole mushrooms for added umami.
You may be suprised by how comforting and delicious your congee is with just these three ingredients (water or stock, rice, chicken). But the fun is really in the toppings. Fresh chopped ginger gives you even more digestive fire, thinly sliced scallions or chives add an oniony undertone, gluten-free tamari or coconut aminos season it further, and dark sesame oil provides a rich nuttiness.
You may also enjoy a fried or poached egg, or some sautéed bok chop or spinach on top.
Another option is to make a sweet version by substituting the bone broth with raw milk or a non dairy option and finish with cinnamon, ghee, berries, nuts, maple syrup, and a pinch of Redmonds real salt for some extra mineral support. Kiddos love this version.
Simple Chicken Congee
2 cups sushi or jasmine rice
4 chicken drumsticks
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, wiped with a wet towel (optional)
5 quarts water or chicken stock
2 teaspoons pink Himalayan salt
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
1 tablespoon coconut oil or ghee
Chopped ginger, scallions, gluten-free tamari, or coconut aminos, and dark sesame oil (optional, but adds flavor)
In a large pot, combine the rice, chicken, mushrooms (if using), water or stock, and sea salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then immediately reduce to medium-low. Gently simmer, uncovered, for about an hour, or until the rice is soft, the broth is thickened into a porridge-like consistency, and the chicken is tender.
Remove the chicken to a medium mixing bowl and pull the meat from the bones using two forks. Discard the bones and return the chicken to the pot along with the ginger. Cook for 5 minutes more.
Stir the coconut oil or ghee into the congee. Serve the congee alongside additional chopped ginger, scallions, gluten-free tamari or coconut aminos, and dark sesame oil for added flavor.
Enjoy * If you own an Instant Pot there are many easy recipes on Pinterest, this can cut your cook time down to 20 minutes.