Across Asia, congee is revered for its comforting qualities. If you’re feeling ill or in need of sustenance in the morning or late at night, chances are you’ll be handed a bowl of this soothing rice porridge. The most basic form of congee is simply rice simmered with plenty of water over a number of hours, resulting in a silky, creamy texture that’s slightly soupier than the oat-based porridge of Western households.
But while you might be used to garnishing your breakfast porridge with brown sugar and sliced banana, in Asia congee is a decidedly savoury affair. You can beef up the flavour by simmering the rice in stock or adding leftover bones to the mix, and depending on which country you’re in, a whole raft of garnishes may be served up.
Take your pick of the following garnishes and flavourings.
Chinese congee: salted duck eggs, coriander, ginger, white pepper, soy sauce, boneless fish or chicken, and fried bread sticks.
Indonesian bubur ayam: shredded chicken meat, spring onion, fried shallot, fried dough sticks and kecap manis.
Japanese kayu: thickened with egg and topped with onion, salmon, fish roe, pickled ginger and salted plums.
Korean juk: kimchi and jeotgal (fermented seafood).
Myanmar hsan byok: enriched with chicken or pork stock and simply garnished with sliced spring onion and fried onion.
Singaporean congee or Teochew porridge: served with a range of savoury dishes, perhaps braised pork, steamed fish, kangkong (stir-fried water spinach), fishcakes, salted egg, omelette and vegetables.
Thai chok: mixed with raw egg and served with minced pork or beef, spring onions, fried dough, ginger, garlic and spicy pickles.
Vietnamese chao: flavoured with chicken, garlic and ginger, pandan or mung beans, served with shredded cabbage, spring onions and a vinegar-based sauce.
Learn how to make your own congee from scratch, then experiment with these authentic accompaniments from across Asia.
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