A wintertime bowl of comfort (and joy, of course)
I’m Asian (does this surprise anyone?) and I grew up eating rice at all hours of the day.
Dinner? No question.
Oh, you want a snack? Here’s some rice and stop hitting your brother.
To this day my mother’s biggest frustration with my father is that he is impossible to dine out with because “it’s not a meal if there isn’t a bowl of rice.”
I have taken him to expensive restaurants where he goes home to eat a bowl of rice – there’s no winning with this one.
The people at Dainty Foods asked if I’d help celebrate their 135th anniversary and the new look of their products by sharing a recipe and since it’s now winter and about -500 degrees, the rice dish I want to eat is a bowl of rice porridge commonly known as congee or jook. I grew up in a Mandarin-speaking house and in Mandarin it translates into “watery rice”…and I think that explains itself.
Many cultures have their own variation of a rice porridge but the kind you might be familiar with at your favourite dim sum or Chinese food spot will resemble what I’m describing here: rice cooked in a lot of water until it breaks down into a thick and creamy porridge that you can eat with any topping you can think of.
When I was growing up, we’d often eat it for breakfast – my mother would leave a warm pot of rice on the stove and on the table there would be small bowls of toppings: pork floss, pickled vegetables, salted duck eggs, tofu, soy sauce and chili sauce.
You might not have a million jars of Asian pickles or salted duck eggs in your fridge (I don’t), so top it with shredded meat, leftover grilled or roasted vegetables, or toss in some vegetables as the rice is cooking.
To showcase my east-coast roots, I topped mine with a sweet lobster claw. Let’s not get crazy and make this the standard. Congee is really a wonderfully warm and comforting meal where anything goes and whatever you have in your fridge will work.
I used Dainty Royal rice – it’s a long grain rice and perfect for making a pot of creamy congee. It’s worth noting that this is a Canadian company founded in Montreal and they produce more than 50,000 tons (yes, TONS!) of rice a year in their Windsor, Ontario facility and all of it is gluten-free and 100% natural.
Wanting the exact dish I grew up eating for breakfast, I asked my mom for HER recipe and this is what she told me, “use long-grain rice, but if you don’t have it, use anything. Use any rice. And lots of water. Maybe ginger, maybe chicken stock. You don’t have chicken stock? It’s ok. Just use water. You can cook with meat or no meat. Do whatever you want.” Basically, this is a dish that is very forgiving and you can customize it any way you like.
This is the very basic recipe I used:
1 cup of Dainty Royal long grain rice
7 cups of water (you will very likely add a bit more near the end or if you want a thinner consistency)
1 knob of ginger cut into large slices
1/2 tsp of salt (my mother does not use salt but I like it)
Put your rice in a strainer and rinse it well. The water will be very cloudy and milky – so rinse it a few times until it’s clearer (it will still be a bit cloudy and that’s fine.)
In a large pot, boil your water, add ginger slices and rice.
Simmer for 60 minutes and up to 90 minutes, stirring occasionally. Make sure you scrape the bottom of the pot a few times so the rice doesn’t stick.
Add water/stock if you feel it’s too thick. This will also thicken when it gets cold, so you’ll likely need to add water to loosen it up if you’re having it as leftovers.
I added leftover chicken and mushrooms to one bowl, lobster to another, and cooked some with sweet potatoes.
Green onions, soy sauce, sesame oil, chili oil/sauce are all pretty standard.
Variations: Use your favourite stock instead of water, add cubes of sweet potato or squash as the rice is cooking and you’ll have a colourful and hearty meal.
This post was created in partnership with Dainty Foods.