Sunday, December 11, 2011

Luscious, Healing Black Rice Congee

This week, one of my gracious student interns delivered beautiful Chinese yams to her cohorts and to me, which inspired this delicious and medicinal congee.  For the uninitiated, congee is a thick porridge or gruel that is typically made with rice.   The ratio of rice to water is 1:6, and the cooking time is increased significantly until what results is a smooth, heartwarming bowl of goodness.  Congee is so revered in Asian cultures for its nourishing qualities that it is often the first solid food given to babies, and is the food treatment of choice for the elderly or ill.  Think of congee as the Asian equivalent of chicken noodle soup. From a Chinese medical perspective, congee reinforces the digestive system and nourishes other organs.  It is a delicious and soul-satisfying way to start the morning, especially in the fall and winter, though it can be eaten any time of day or year.   

While most recipes call for white rice, I prefer brown or black rice for their higher nutritional content and lower glycemic load.  Congee can be sweet or savory.  I made this congee with chinese yam, ginger and garlic.  Ginger and garlic are warming and used in Chinese medicine to improve digestion and treat colds and coughs.  Chinese yam is sweet and strengthens the digestive center.  Enjoy!

Black Rice Congee with Chinese Yam, Ginger and Garlic

1c black rice
6 c water
1 inch cube of fresh ginger, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
pinch of sea salt
herbs or scallions for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a pot and cook, stirring occasionally, for approximately two hours or until the rice has broken down and a smooth consistency is achieved.  If you have a pressure cooker, reduce the time accordingly.  Add more water if necessary. That's it!  

Other common additions the rice include apples, pears, cinnamon, dates, walnuts, green onions and sesame.  Experiment and reap the nutritional rewards of this time-honored comfort food!

If you live in NYC, be sure to check out Congee Village on the LES for inspiration and tasty delights!

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