Perhaps it’s my restless desire for change, or my anxiety from the undeniably longer nights that indicate even longer nights are coming to overshadow our daylight, but my appetite has been zapped lately. I don’t feel like myself when I can’t finish my food and I become disappointed in my tummy’s lack of desire for a real meal. Am I alone here?
Like an old woman aging gracefully, I crave softer foods that are totally neutral when digesting. Did I say too much? If you follow what I’m trying to say, then you understand how miserable this war with food can be. Running this blog can become difficult when you suddenly become underwhelmed by ingredients and cooking.
I usually have congee when I’m feeling these sorts of food blues. If you’re unfamilar with this dish, it’s basically soupy rice porridge. If rice is my first comfort food, then congee is a VERY close second. To me, this is perfect any time you need to be convinced that your food does love you back. There is strong evidence that my mom has been feeding me this from the moment I could have real food. It’s soup and rice in one dish; this one deserves a gold star.
Honestly, it’s a tough sell when verbalizing it, but why tell you when I can show you?
There are basically two versions of congee: plain and everything else. There are no wrong ingredients to use and the plain congee just provides the foundation for everything you want to throw at it. Let your congee flag fly.
Chicken Congee with Bok Choy
Half pound sliced chicken breast
1 teaspoon soy sauce
½ teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon oyster sauce
1 stalk baby bok choy
5-6 shiitake mushrooms
Ginger, about 2 thumb sizes
½ cup rice
5 cups water
Chopped scallions (optional)
Start by marinating the sliced chicken breast with soy sauce, sesame oil, oyster sauce, and ground pepper. Leave in the fridge. You can let this sit overnight or simply do this before you start making the congee.
Clean and cut the bok choy and mushrooms to bite size. In a medium saucepan, bring 5 cups of cold water to a boil. Add ginger, you can also use the mushroom stems for flavor – just be sure to take them out before adding the rice.
Once the water is boiling, add rice and reduce the heat a bit, the water should maintain a steady strong simmer. This next step, breaking down the rice, takes about 25-35 minutes, depending on the heat. Stir every five minutes so it doesn’t stick or burn at the bottom. Water might need to be added as it keeps cooking.
Once you get an almost homogenous consistency, then you’re basically done. It should not be too watery, but shouldn’t be too thick. Adjust with either more heat or additional liquid if necessary. The rice and broth should be harmonious in texture.
You can finish it up here and this would be the plain version, but we’re going to dress this up some more.
Bring the heat to a medium heat and add mushrooms and the marinated chicken slices. Once those are cooked thoroughly, roughly 3-5 minutes, reduce to low heat. Throw in sliced bok choy and give it a good stir. When the leaves start to wilt, the congee is ready to be served. Give it one last taste for seasoning.
Top with some scallions and you are about to experience the ultimate comfort food.