Congee is made from slow and long cooked grains and lentils. Chinese rice congee is the best known around the world, but Korea and Japan also have congees, and India has kanji. The macrobiotic movement adopted congee as a delicious and nourishing dish, easy on the digestion. It can be eaten at any time of the day and is very popular for late night snacking and for breakfast. They say that the longer congee cooks, the more powerful it is.
You want to cook congee on the lowest possible heat, so it is barely simmering. Use a heat diffuser, especially for the second half of cooking, otherwise it may stick to the bottom of the pot and burn. I prefer to cook it in a Chinese clay pot – I believe the flavour is superior, and I keep my pot for congee only.
This is the cooking pot that I use – they are very inexpensive and available at any Asian grocery. Remember to soak in water for 24 hours before your first use, and to only use to cook over low heat. Never put them in the dishwasher.
Barley, Millet and Mung Congee
0.5 cup pearl millet (the common millet sold in supermarkets)
0.5 cup pearl barley
0.25 cup mung dal (yellow split mung beans)
5 cups water
few curry leaves
1 black cardamom
0.5 – 0.75 tspn turmeric powder
1 – 2 finely chopped tomatoes
toppings (choose your combination)
Chinese Black and/or Red Vinegar
pickled ginger slices
crispy garlic slices
crispy ginger slices
crispy fried onions
unsalted peanuts (raw peanuts are best)
slices of young ginger
sliced spring onions
fresh chillies sliced
dried shiitake mushrooms, sliced
Rinse the grains and mung beans, and place in a large saucepan or clay/terracotto pot suitable for the stove top. Add any or none of the optional flavourings. Add 5 cups water and cover with the lid.
Place over your lowest heat (use a heat diffuser if necessary,especially in the second half of cooking) and cook on low for 4 – 6 hours until a porridge like consistency. Top up the water as necessary. Stir every 20 – 30 mins, to prevent sticking.
It can also be cooked in a 100C oven for 8 hours or overnight.
Season with salt and white pepper, stir through chopped herbs if desired, and top with many or none of the suggested toppings. Serve with Indian or Asian pickles and a fresh salad.
recipe notes and alternatives
A sweet version of this congee can be made. Cook the grains and lentil with a couple of green cardamom pods, 2 cloves and a cinnamon stick. Serve it with a little honey, and some grated apple and/or pear.
Do you have a “Soup Mix” to be used up? The generic name for a mix of barley, dried peas and dried lentils. Use it in congee in place of the barley.