Brown or white rice is softly cooked in lots of homemade broth until the rice is falling apart into a smooth consistency. Served with a variety of toppings, including soy sauce or tamari, freshly grated ginger, green onions. roasted salmon or other seafood, spiced boiled eggs or poached eggs, ground white pepper, and chili pepper flakes, there are as many variations to this delicious and flavorful dish as there are cooks in the world.
Every Asian or rice eating culture has their own rice porridge or “congee” version. While a very boring name (anything with the word “porridge” in it, seems unsexy), these soups/porridges can be amazingly comforting and flavorful. Some are thick, some are thin, some are fish based, some are chicken or pork, but all are delicious.
Traditionally this nourishing dish started the day out right at breakfast, was given as a first food to young children, or given to those under the weather. With the rich stock base and the softly cooked rice, it is a wonderful food that I think many of us would enjoy. Think about how much more nourishing this dish is in comparison to the typical bowl of cold cereal! We eat it at whatever meal we feel like.
Americans have fallen in love with certain Asian influenced soups, such as beef pho (I know I have!). I think that rice congees will be one of the next soups that make its way to our homes and restaurants. We have already started seeing some attention being drawn to this delicious dish both in some upscale restaurants near us and, of course, you can find it at some authentic Asian restaurants too.
On a personal note, my two year old is a very picky eater but when I first discovered this delicious dish, she gobbled it down like there was no tomorrow! I love this dish and so does my family!
For my book, Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons, I devoted a section on Grain Porridges and Rice Congees. I wanted to share one with you today, so I am bringing you my Miso Brown Rice Congee. Other recipes in that section include: Chinese Congee (with chicken and/or Marbled Spiced Tea Eggs), Thai Congee (a beautiful mix of hot, sour and sweet flavors), Japanese Congee with Soy Ginger Salmon, Simple Brown Rice Congee with Variations, Korean Sesame Seed Porridge, Irish Yellow Broth (oatmeal thickened soup), and Spice Moroccan Millet Porridge with Milk.
This recipe for congee uses miso to both give an oomph of flavor but it also acts as the catalyst for soaking/fermenting the brown rice overnight for better nutrition and absorption (To read more about soaking grains, go here). This is a simple favorite in our household. I hope you like it!
Miso Brown Rice Congee- Serves 4
Miso, a mix of cooked soybeans and rice, is fermented with a particular fungus called koji (or aspergillus oryzae). It’s the perfect jump start to soaking or fermenting brown rice to make a more digestible (and tasty) brown rice version of congee. However, you need to make sure you use a miso that still contains live cultures. The label should either say “live cultures” or “raw.”
Since brown rice doesn’t break down as easily as white rice, I purée this congee in the end to give it a smooth texture. You can use this base for a variety of toppings (like the Fried Shallot and Garlic Topping from the Thai Congee, the Soy Ginger Salmon from the Japanese Congee, or the Marbled Spiced Tea Eggs from the Chinese Congee), or you can just keep it simple with a poached egg, green onions, and ginger. Umeboshi plum paste is a sweet and sour fermented paste that is delicious and very good for you. It’s considered by the Japanese as good for digestion, among many other health benefits. You can find it at many health food stores, occasionally sold in bulk. As always, offer as many or as few toppings as you like. I would recommend a protein (like the poached eggs), the soy sauce, and the ginger to start with. Add more as desired.
1⁄4 cup/60 ml live-culture miso
1 cup/1 75 grams brown rice (long or short grain)
1 cup/236 ml warm filtered water
5 cups/1.18 liters chicken or anchovy stock or water
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
2 heaping teaspoons wakame (a seaweed available at health food stores and asian markets) (optional)
4 poached eggs
soy sauce or tamari (use tamari for gluten-free option)
Finely grated fresh ginger
sliced green onions
Umeboshi plum paste
Toasted sesame seed oil
1. In a medium bowl, combine the miso, brown rice, and warm water. Mix together and cover. Leave the bowl in a warm place for 12–24 hours.
2. In a medium pot,add the miso and rice mixture along with 1 cup of water. Bring the mixture to a boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Add 4 cups of stock to the pot and bring it to a boil. Turn the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 –1 1⁄2 hours or until the rice is very soft.
4. Add more water or broth, if needed, to thin the soup. I generally add about 1 cup more liquid after the cooking time.
5. Purée in batches in a food processor orblender, or blend directly in the pot with an immersion blender.
6. Add the ginger and wakame (if using) to the pot and cook for 3 more minutes.
7. To poach the eggs, fill a medium pan with water deep enough to cover the eggs. Bring the water to a boil, drop in the eggs, and simmer for 4 minutes, which is long enough to cook the egg whites, but short enough to leave some of the yolk runny. Remove the poached egs with a slotted spoon and top each bowl of congee with one egg. Be sure to make the eggs right before serving the congee.
8. Serve with your other chosen toppings.