Definitions

Rice congee

Congee

[kon-jee]
Rice congee (pronounced /ˈkɒndʒiː/ or /ˈkɑndʒi/) is a type of rice porridge that is eaten in many Asian countries. The word "congee" is possibly derived from the Dravidian word kanji. In some cultures, congee is eaten primarily as a breakfast food or late supper; while in others, it is eaten as a substitute for rice at other meals.

In many Mandarin-speaking parts of the world, this dish is also referred to as "xifan" (traditional: 稀飯, simplified: 稀饭, pinyin: xī fàn), literally meaning "diluted rice."

Congee can be made in a pot or in a rice cooker. Some rice cookers even have a "congee" setting, allowing the user to cook their breakfast congee overnight.

Cultural variations

Chinese

There are many regional variations of Chinese congees. For example, to make Cantonese congee, white rice is boiled in many times its weight of water for a long time until the rice breaks down and becomes a fairly viscous white porridge. Congees made in other regions may use different types of rice with different quantities of water, thus resulting in a thicker or more viscous product.

It is often eaten with zha cai, salted duck eggs, lettuce and dace paste, bamboo shoots, youtiao, wheat gluten, with other condiments, meat or century eggs.

Other seasonings, such as white pepper and soy sauce, may be added. Alternatively, grilled fish may be mixed in to provide a different texture.

Congee is often eaten with fried bread sticks known as youtiao. Congee with youtiao is commonly eaten as breakfast in many areas in China. Congee can be left watery or can be drained so that it has a texture similar to Western oatmeal porridge. Congee can also be made from brown rice, although this is less common and takes longer to cook.

Besides functioning as an everyday meal, congee is considered to be food therapy for the unwell. Ingredients can be determined by their supposed therapeutic value as well as flavor.

The origin of congee is unknown, but from many historical accounts, it is usually served during times of famine or when numerous patrons visit the temples. Thus, it can be interpreted as a way to stretch the rice supply to feed more people.

In China, congee has also been used to feed young infants. However, the cooking time is much longer than okayu, and because it is for infants, the congee is not seasoned with salt or any other flavoring, but often is mixed with pre-steamed and deboned fish.

Congee can also be made from other grains, like cornmeal, millet, barley, and sorghum. These are common in the north of China, where rice does not grow. Multigrain congee mixes are popularly sold in the health food sections of Chinese supermarkets. Congee with mung beans is usually eaten with sugar, just like red bean congee. The mung beans are eaten for their therapeutic "cooling" effect.

Japanese

Okayu is the name for the type of congee eaten in Japan. Okayu is still considerably thicker than congee produced in other cultures. For example, a typical Cantonese style congee uses a water to rice ratio of 12:1, but okayu typically uses water to rice ratios of 5:1 (zen-gayu) or 7:1 (shichibun-gayu). Also, its cooking time is short compared to other types of congee; okayu is cooked for about 30 minutes, while Cantonese congees cook for an hour or more. may simply consist of rice and water, although salt is often added for seasoning. Beaten eggs could be beaten into it to thicken it into gruel. Toppings may be added to enhance flavour; negi (a type of green onion), salmon, roe, ginger, and umeboshi (pickled ume fruit) are among the most common. Similarly, miso or chicken stock may be used to flavor the broth. Most Japanese electric rice cookers have a setting for okayu.

In Japan, okayu is popularly known as a food served to the ill, occupying a similar cultural status to that of chicken noodle soup in America. Because it is soft and easily digestible, okayu is the first solid food served to Japanese infants; it is used to transition them from liquids to the thicker rice dishes which constitute much of the Japanese diet. It is also commonly eaten by the elderly for the same reasons.

A type of okayu called nanakusa-gayu (, "Seven Herb Porridge") is traditionally eaten on 7 January, as a way of using special herbs that protect against evils, and to invite good luck and longevity in the new year. Moreover, as a simple, light dish, nanakusagayu serves as a break from the many heavy dishes eaten over the Japanese New Year.

Korean

In Korea the dish goes by the name juk and is often cooked with vegetables, tuna, or other ingredients to create variants of the dish. Being largely unflavored, it is served together with a number of side dishes such as kimchi, beef jerky, pickled cuttlefish, or other ingredients, to add flavor to the dish. One variety is called jatjuk made with finely ground pine nut flour, which has been regarded a quality food.

Juk is a common take-out dish, with several large chain stores selling it in South Korea, such as Bon Juk (본죽) and Hyun Juk (현죽).

It is also the dish of choice to serve the ill or elderly, as is it easily consumed and digested.

Filipino

Lúgao (alternately spelled "lugaw or "lugau") is the Filipino name for congee. Very similar to Cantonese style congee, lúgao is typically of a thicker consistency, retaining the shape of the rice while achieving the same type of texture. It is boiled with strips of fresh ginger. Other flavors may be added according to taste. Most often it will be topped with scallions and served with crispy fried garlic. As with okayu, fish or chicken stock may also be used to flavor the broth. Lúgao can also be served with tokwa't baboy (diced tofu and pork), goto (beef tripe), utak (pig's brain), as well as calamansi, fish sauce, and soy sauce. It is often served to the ill and the elderly, and is favored among Pinoys living abroad in colder climates because it is warm, soft, and easily digestible.

Some provinces prefer the Spanish-influenced arroz caldo (literally hot rice), which is often mistaken for a European dish due to its name. Arroz caldo is actually a Chinese congee that was adapted to the tastes of the Spanish colonial settlers who patronized Chinese restaurants in the Philippines. As the Spanish could not pronounce Chinese, they gave it a Spanish name for easy reference.

Arroz caldo is most usually spiced with saffron and black pepper in place of or in addition to the more traditional ginger and scallion. Arroz caldo more closely resembles risotto than congee, and is clearly recognized by the bright yellow hue contributed by the addition of saffron, and the larger pieces of meat. Arroz caldo is more popular among those of Ilokano heritage, although people of other provinces, such as Cebu, often add Philippine prawns, olive oil, bay leaf, and Chinese sausage.

Indian

Udupi rice ganji is a variant made by Kannada-speaking, Tulu-speaking or Konkani people in and around Udupi and Mangalore (Karnataka, South India). Here parboiled rice (Kocheel akki in Kannada, oorpel aari in Tulu or ukda tandul in Konkani) is steamed with a small amount of water. Fresh coconut is grated and its milk is skimmed; this milk is then added to the ganji. The ganji (called pej in Konkani) is served hot with fish curry, coconut chutney, or Indian pickles. In Tamil and Kerala a plain rice porridge, or the thick supernatant water on overcooked rice is called 'kanji' with no stress on either syllable (or both short syllables in the Tamil system based on duration of sounds).

Thai

In Thailand, rice congee is known as "jok" (โจ๊ก) and is often served as breakfast with a raw or partially-cooked egg added. In most, minced pork or beef is also added and the dish is usually topped with a small version of youtiao (known as pahtongguo by Thais), garlic, spicy pickles such as pickled radish and chopped spring onions. Although it is more popular as a breakfast dish, many stores specializing in congee will sell it throughout the entire day. Variations in the meat and toppings are also frequently found.

Vietnamese

In Vietnam, rice congee is called cháo. It is sometimes cooked together with pandan leaves. Cháo gà is a variety of cháo cooked with chicken and garlic. Other combinations includes duck meat and various pig organs. Many people tend to eat cháo when they feel sick because it is easy to digest. It is also made for death anniversary ceremonies, during which it is offered to the spirits of one's ancestors.

See also

References

External links

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