A Simple Congee

Congee is a simple and nourishing food that is easy to make. 

Congee is a simple and nourishing food that is easy to make. 

Plant-based and easy to digest, this hot, savory porridge, made by cooking a small amount of rice or other grain in a large amount of water, is the ultimate healing food. Congee is something women should eat on a regular basis. In fact, it should become part of their daily lives. This nourishing bowl food can be made with millet or pearl barley instead of or in addition to rice. It is very inexpensive and no trouble to prepare. In China, many people eat congee for breakfast, and it is often included for free when you order food at a restaurant. It is a tonic for everyone: children, adults, and disabled individuals as well. Low in calories, congee is actually a great dish for women who want to lose weight, because it is light, but after eating a bowlful, you feel warm and satisfied.

Congee helps to balance qi, and it treats a weak stomach, heart disease, and many other conditions. It is good to eat in every season—even in summer, when hot cooked foods are beneficial to bring your internal temperature closer to that of the air, making you feel stronger and more comfortable.

The flavors of a healing or sustaining congee are true and simple. There is great comfort in eating the plainest cooked mixture of rice and water, which needs no seasoning except for a pinch of pure sea salt. The natural taste of congee is health-giving. Everyone oversalts, but women especially should get used to eating plain foods on a regular basis to help balance their qi. It’s fine to occasionally add ginger and other seasonings—except during menopause, when women should avoid the heat of ginger if they experience hot flashes—and to substitute more flavorful broths for the water, but not all the time. You will understand a new definition of delicious as you grow accustomed to congee’s healing simplicity.

Serves 2

1/3 cup white rice

4 cups filtered water

Pinch of sea salt

Put the rice in a fine-mesh sieve and rinse it under cold running water for . Stir with your hand and rinse again.

In a small heavy saucepan, combine the rice, water, and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and partially cover the pan with a lid. Cook until the rice grains are soft and the liquid has thickened, at least 30 minutes but possibly more. The congee should be delicate and almost creamy in texture from the rice starch mixing with the water, but the texture is really a matter of personal preference: some people like it very liquid and others less so. Remember that this dish is meant to be eaten as a soup, so don’t let it get too thick and add more water as needed.