Now that cold and flu season has set in, it's time to start hunting down comforting soup recipes. Besides the requisite chicken soup that we all need in our cooking arsenal, there's another kind of dish that will cure what ails you when you've contracted the creeping crud: congee. For those not in the know, congee, also known as jook, is a creamy rice porridge that's a staple in Asian cultures. Consisting of rice that's been slowly cooked down to the point that the starches disintegrate into a bowl creamy goodness -- think risotto, only cooked longer -- congee is warm and easy to digest. Plus it's gluten free by default, can be make either vegan or vegetarian, and keeps well in the refrigerator for a few days.
Congee can be eaten sweet for breakfast, but more traditional recipes add in any number of savory ingredients, such as chicken, mushrooms, onions, and egg. Simpler, blander congee recipes can be fed to infants, used as a cold/curative curative, and won't upset your stomach further when you've eaten something that doesn't agree with you. Overall, congee might be the perfect food when you need a comforting dish that's easy on your digestive system.
If you're looking for wonderful congee restaurants in the Bay Area, you've got several options:
- Gum Kuo in Oakland has an extensive congee menu, with over 20 different varieties, most under $5.
- Anh Hong serves up fabulous congee and has locations in San Francisco, Milpitas, Berkeley and San Jose.
- Hakka Restaurant in San Francisco has an impressive congee menu that includes both bland and more elaborate versions -- including frog!
- Sui Tofu, or Yang-Pyeong Sin-Nae Seoul Hae-Jang-Guk in Santa Clara serves up congee with a series of little side dishes that adds to your jook experience.
Congee is also easy to make at home. I like adding a tablespoon of butter or olive oil with just a sprinkling of curry powder, or else I make a more elaborate chicken jook for those days when I want something meaty. The recipe below is perfect for when you're not feeling well and find yourself craving a dish that's warm, nourishing, and easy to prepare.
Simple Vegetarian Congee