Chinese Rice Porridge with Side Dishes
Traditionally, where ever rice is the staple, rice congee is the Chinese baby's first solid food. It is also fodder for the convalescing when bland food is called for. But it is best enjoyed as a foil for savoury side dishes, most commonly for breakfast.
1 cup rice (long, medium or short grain)
6 cups water
There is no fixed list of side dishes, but in Taiwan, most accompaniments are pre-prepared, preserved dishes, many quite salty. These can be found at your Chinese grocery store. A typical range of side dishes is pictured in the photo: from the left, clockwise: Chinese sausage, fermented tofu in chilli, dried Oriental radish (daikon), bamboo shoots in chilli oil, stewed peanuts, pickled young ginger, pickled celtuce stem, and in the centre, salty duck eggs. Try also Anchovies with Peanuts and Pickled Cucumber Salad.
Wash rice until water is reasonable clear, drain
Boil water, add rice
Stir as you bring the rice to the boil again
Simmer on a very low heat for 20 minutes, (do not cover). The last 5 minutes may need an occasional stir to prevent sticking
Turn heat off. Stir to equalize heat
Put lid on pot and let rest for 10 minutes
Serve with accompaniments
Notes: It is not uncommon for the Taiwanese to add a few pieces of sweet potato when cooking the rice.
You can mix pickings from the side dishes into your rice, or place them on top. Don't be afraid to lift the bowl to your mouth to slurp the porridge – many people eat it with chopsticks only.
Other possible side dishes include: any pickled vegetable, stewed wheat gluten, small fried fish with peanuts, canned eel, dried pork floss, fried egg, or any stir fried vegetable.
I cook the rice for a short time so the structure of the rice grain remains intact. Simply add more water and cook longer if you prefer a softer more watery congee. With leftovers, you will absolutely need to add a considerable amount of water when reheating the rice.
Complementary Wines: Chardonnay, Edelweiss, Pinot Noir, Pinotage, Roussanne
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