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Congee is nothing more than a simple rice porridge, but man can it be comforting! It's an Asian breakfast staple, a dim sum classic, and a blank canvas to add your own flavors. Traditionally white rice is used, but sometimes I like to use brown rice for a heartier, healthier porridge.
Even though white rice congee produces a silkier congee, one of the benefits of brown rice congee is the subtle nutty flavor. Heartier vegetables such as kale, escarole, shiitakes, leeks, and even Brussels sprouts are perfect in it. One of my favorite combos is this recipe: marinated ground beef, dried shiitake mushrooms, and garlic chips.
Like all congee recipes, knowing the right water-to-rice ratio is key. While my go-to ratio of twelve parts water to one part short grain rice is perfect for white rice congee, when using it on brown rice (short or long grain) it doesn't work. The congee ends up way too watery. Five to one water to rice is the ratio for brown rice congee.
The water to rice ratio might be different, but the steps for cooking both types of congee remain the same. Bring water and rice to boil, cover for 15 minutes, stir, cover for another 15 minutes, uncover and add some soaked dried shiitakes, and cover for another 20 to 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, I start making my garlic chips.
The trick is to cut the chips evenly (a Japanese mandoline slicer works wonders for this task), cover them in cold oil, and cook them gently.
Golden brown is what we're after, not dark or burnt. I also drizzle some of the reserved oil on top of the congee before serving (and it makes a great oil for stir-frying other recipes in as well).
Once the congee is almost finished, I add the beef.
The beef is marinated in a variation of my classic stir-fry marinade made with corstarch, soy sauce, oil, sugar, and salt. Simple. It cooks in just a matter of minutes.
Just like white rice congee, this congee tastes the best the day that it's made, though it can be refrigerated for up to two days. Another thing to keep in mind is brown rice congee tends to thicken quicker than white rice congee when left to cool. To reheat brown rice congee that is room temperature or straight from the fridge, slowly warm it up under a low heat, add a small amount of water, stir, and add more water if necessary.
This flavorful, thick, and creamy congee makes for a great, substantial dinner, especially as the weather begins to get colder, but I'll welcome a bowl any time of day.
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