Congee, known as zhou (粥, pronounced “djoh”) in Mandarin, zuk/juk in Cantonese, juk in Hakka, juk in Korean, okayu in Japan, muay or chok in Hokkien, cháo in Vietnamese, bubur in Malay/Indonesian, and has even more names in other places like Thailand, Burma, etc. The English is from India, where a similar food is known as kanji, ganji, kanda, and other names in other languages. In China, congee is a common breakfast food, a baby food, and also a food for sick people (they eat congee instead of regular rice because it is easier to digest) and there are also herbal congees for restorative foods.
The most basic type is white congee (白粥) made by simmering rice and water. Congee in the North is often propared with millet, cornmeal, and other grains too. White congee is very popular at home. It has only rice flavor (white congee is one of the few ways you can taste white rice flavor!), and is served with pickled vegetables, fermented tofu, and preserved eggs, either salted eggs or “century” eggs, or both to make Yin-Yang Congee, named because it is white and black eggs 🙂
Fish congee or 鱼片粥 is a very common breakfast food in China. (You can find it on the Brunch Menu I posted earlier.) It adds thinly sliced marinated fish to the congee and is super easy to make. Living in the USA, salmon is very common. I used frozen salmon fillets to make it. The result was very delicious.
This post contains the recipe for both white congee and salmon congee because you must first make white congee to make other congees (except chicken congee, in which the chicken is usually boiled in the congee, but that’s another post).
This recipe is adapted from My Grandmother’s Chinese Kitchen by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo, which is a great resource on traditional Cantonese cooking and also an interesting story to read.
In the book, there is an interesting way to make congee, combining short grain (Japanese) rice with glutinous (sticky) rice (gluten free!). Using this combination, the congee is high in amylopectin, which thickens the soup much faster because it breaks down as soon as it is heated. This makes the congee easier to make, but you have to stir more.
Ingredients for White Congee:
1/2 cup short grain (Japanese) rice, also called sushi rice in the USA, although in Japan, “sushi rice” means rice mixed with sushi vinegar. I use calrose rice because it is cheaper than real Japanese rice like koshihikari.
1/3 cup glutinous rice (sticky rice). Also called sweet rice (usually by Japanese people) even though it isn’t sweet. This is gluten free and “glutinous” derives from a Latin word meaning “sticky”. Most Americans call Japanese non-glutinous rice “sticky rice” (because it is stickier than American rice), totally confusing everything and everyone. This way, just about all Americans are extremely confused about the difference between these two rices. Here is the easy to tell difference just by seeing: Japanese short grain rice is translucent when raw and opaque when cooked. Sticky glutinous rice is opaque when raw and translucent when cooked. To confuse you further though, there are two kinds of sticky glutinous rice. The Japanese variety of sticky glutinous rice is a short grain, the Thai variety is a long grain. The Japanese variety is grown in the USA by Koda Farms (and in Japan of course, but usually not imported here), and the Thai variety is grown in Southeast Asia. Either is fine to use.
8 1/2 cups water
1. Wash the two rices. You don’t need to wash too thoroughly, just rinse.
2. Add to a pot. Add the 8 1/2 cups water. Use a large pot because it overflows easily.
3. Bring to a boil over high heat. Stir every couple of minutes to prevent sticking.
4. Be careful when about to boil, as it can overflow, so watch the pot! When boiling, two choices: You can either cover totally and leave on lowest heat, which is possible on my tiny stove since the flame is so small and weak. However, if the flame is too big, it will overflow the pot. The other choice is too leave a little gap in the lid. In this case, use medium-low to medium, as long as it keeps the congee bubbling. This way though, since the flame is larger, it sticks faster.
5. Simmer 1 hour. Stir every 10 minutes with a wooden spatula to prevent sticking. Actually, it will still stick. So, every time, scrape the stuck part off the bottom of the pot with the spatula. But you still have to do every 10 minutes or else too much will stick and it will burn.
6. Meanwhile, prepare the fish marinade (below) if making fish congee.
7. If eating white congee, just serve once it is done simmering. Serve with zha cai, fermented tofu, other pickled vegetables, and maybe with other breakfast foods like you tiao (deep fried dough stick).
1/2 lb salmon fillet, sliced thinly (I use a Costco prepackaged frozen salmon fillet, 7 oz)
1 tsp white rice vinegar or distilled vinegar
1 tbsp double distilled white rice wine (shuang jin chiew in Cantonese) or Shaoxing wine
1 1/2 tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp white sugar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp peanut oil or other cooking oil
1/4 tsp salt
1 pinch white pepper powder
3-4 slices ginger, finely julienned
3-4 green onions, finely julienned (split the middle)
1. Mix the fish with marinade, let sit while congee is cooking.
2. Once congee is done, add fish.
3. Turn heat to medium high and immediately stir constantly with chopsticks.
4. Boil one minute. By this time, the fish is all definitely cooked. You can see for yourself.
5. Ladle into bowls and serve! Enjoy!
Because salmon is quite flaky, this becomes more of a salmon flake congee than a salmon slice congee (鱼片粥). But it is still very tasty if you like salmon. For a traditional, more like a fish slice congee, you can also use white fish instead of salmon. 🙂