Congee, if you’ve never had it, is a rice porridge. Rice (traditionally the broken rice not suitable for stir frying) is boiled into a mushy gruel. Which sounds terrible to Western ears, I know, but trust me, it can be very tasty.
The theory goes that agitating rice releases starches that cause the grains to stick together – and if you’re making a porridge out of it, get a head start by using already cracked grains.
I have to say that I have been a fan of congee for a very long time. My father made a form of it for his breakfast every so often when I was in my early teens, and I would join him in enjoying it.
Singaporeans enjoy their rice porridge with a variety of additives – some as simple as chopped shallots and a little soy, shredded ginger, fresh chili or sesame oil, others add frog legs, crabs, fish, and stinky (fermented) tofu. I’ve also seen porridge with BBQ meats added – pork, duck, and chicken.
For myself, I find it hard to beat a chicken or fish congee with a little sesame oil and some dried onion. I know that Westerners aren’t supposed to like savory food for breakfast traditionally, but I always have – the thought of sitting down to a bowl of corn flakes or nutrigrain swimming in milk is just not appetising at all.
So what makes a good congee? For me, it should not be too thin – watery gruel is, well, watery gruel, and as unappetising as that sounds. And supplied with the right additives – a little animal protein of some kind, some salt, some soy, a sprinkle of chopped fresh or fried spring onion.
And here is the crazy thing – the Colonel actually makes a decent and edible chicken breakfast congee. I present the KFC rice porridge: