Congee, or jok plaw, is an easy southeast Asian comfort food made with rice and ginger and whatever toppings you like though we’re partial to scallions, cilantro, and peanuts. Here’s how to make it.
Congee | Jok Plaw
- Quick Glance
- 5 M
- 2 H
- Serves 4 to 6
Rinse the rice well and drain it. Soak it in plenty of cold water for 2 to 3 hours–no longer or the cooked congee will be a thin, dull gruel with no perfume.
In a large, heavy pan, bring the water to a boil with the salt. Drain the rice and gradually pour it into the boiling water, stirring gently and constantly as the rice returns to a boil. (If the uncooked rice sticks to the pan and scorches, your congee will be ruined.)
When the rice begins to swell, turn down the heat to very low, cover with a lid, and simmer as gently as possible, stirring regularly and adding more water if needed, until the rice grains have almost dissolved, 45 minutes to 1 hour. The congee must simmer very, very gently, and it should not be too thick or dry–you may need to add more water as it cooks to maintain its soupy consistency. (If you didn’t use broken rice, you’ll need to cook it for somewhere around twice as long.)
Remove from the heat, cover, and set aside for a short spell or up to a few hours. Ladle into bowls and pass the ginger, black pepper, scallions, cilantro, and peanuts on the side for each person to add as they desire. Originally published January 11, 2012.
*What You Need To Know About Broken Rice
We’re going to borrow author David Thompson’s definition of broken rice, which is, as he says, “simply the grains of rice that break and shatter during the milling process.” In the eyes of some, these broken kernels are damaged goods, separated from the whole grains, as it can no longer be used to make steamed rice. Thompson explains further, saying “the starch spills out of the broken grains as they cook, making a gluggy, gluey mass. Terrible for steamed rice, but wonderful for soup! Some Thai cooks prefer new season’s rice for congee, saying it makes a more supple soup, while others incline to old grains, saying it has more character and aroma. I plump for the latter. Broken rice is easily bought in Thailand, and is usually available in Chinese grocery shops. It is also very easy to make: just lightly grind or pound the required amount.” If you just don’t have it in you to trek to Chinatown or pound rice, you can still partake of congee. Just use regular whole-grain rice and simmer it a little longer as mentioned in the recipe above.
Recipe Testers' Reviews
Goopy, soothing, and comfortingly bland, congee is Asia’s contribution to the great nursery food canon. Eaten on its own, it’s on the one-dimensional side, but it makes a terrific vehicle for a host of more dynamic ingredients. I ate mine with shredded ginger, chopped Spanish peanuts, and some soy sauce and it was wonderful.
I must admit that I cheated a bit with this recipe; instead of using broken or even plain white rice, I used some black wild rice that I had on hand. It worked well, but as the recipe suggested it would, it took more than twice as long to cook. Still, it was worth the wait, and I’ll doubtless have plenty of opportunities to make it again during New York’s long winter.
This is exactly what congee should be. Simple, warm, and satisfying on a cold day. This is a great recipe base to start from, and you can add anything you’d like to top it. I like a little bit of spice in my food, so I added a touch of Sriracha after trying out the recipe as written. I didn’t use broken rice, but it still cooked down in the time recommended for broken rice. I added about 2 additional cups of water as well.