Sunday Brunch: Empty Fridge Congee

[Photograph: Sydney Oland]

After the holiday season, cupboards run bare, and stomachs become sensitive. There is one dish that overcomes the first problem while beginning to alleviate the second—congee. It's a rice porridge that can be very complex, or very simple. Which means that whatever you've got lying around, you can make into a very soothing bowl of congee.

The basic congee is rice and water boiled with minced garlic and ginger, seasoned with fish sauce and/or soy sauce to taste. What gets folded in, or placed on top, is what you can scrounge from the depths of your fridge and cupboard.

The congee in the photo above uses frozen peas, diced carrots, dried shrimp and chili sauce.

About the author:
Sydney Oland lives in Boston where she completed her graduate work in Gastronomy and Food Studies in 2009, after a Professional Chef diploma from the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. Find more information at (or read

Sunday Brunch: Empty Fridge Congee

About This Recipe

Active time:10 minutes
Total time:45 minutes


  • 1 cup short grain rice
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 knob of ginger, finely mashed
  • fish sauce to taste
  • soy sauce to taste
  • toasted sesame seeds, optional
  • frozen peas, optional
  • finely diced carrot, optional
  • dried shrimp, optional
  • finely shredded cooked meat, optional
  • diced SPAM, fried until crisp, optional
  • chili paste, optional


  1. 1

    Combine rice, water, garlic and ginger in a pot and bring to a simmer. Simmer until rice is tender, adding more water as needed to reach desired consistency. This can take from 20 minutes to an hour, depending on the texture and consistency you like your congee.

  2. 2

    Once the right consistency is reached, add the ingredients that need to simmer for a minute or two (frozen peas, minced carrots) then season to taste with fish sauce and soy sauce. When adding a fish sauce, make sure to add a little at a time—too much fish sauce can be added very easily.

  3. 3

    Either stir-in or top with other ingredients, and serve piping hot with a soothing cup of tea.


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