Congee – the perfect breakfast
Something has changed.
Long years have passed since we began to experiment with the 5 Elements in the kitchen. We learned a lot from books, through trial and error, and of course from teachers and people we are very thankful to. We came to the point in our studies where outside help was needed. We wanted to explore the world of the 5 elements from a different angle. This is why we have chosen to get back to school, write tests every month and prepare for exams again. All this will surely affect our life and the content of the blog as well.
The two-year course in Vienna has begun, and we are in the middle of the first semester. We have already written a test. (I have done well...) I’m still very happy and thankful for being there: The teachers are thoroughly prepared in the topic of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), and move enormous knowledge to train competent experts in 5 elements food therapy. The people in the group are extremely nice and friendly – it feels like we have known each other for years now. And of course the material we are learning is very exciting as well: it is complex and far-reaching, and at the same time so logical and comprehensive.
One of the five traditional branches of TCM is the 5 Elements Food Therapy. Besides the well known acupuncture, it is used as a powerful tool of healing. Traditionally, 5 Elements Food Therapy – besides preparing food – includes the use of herbs in many different forms as well. Chinese Medicine considers the damage of the centre as the cause of all illness. The centre is seen as the symbol of stability, the earth, and it is the centre of the body as well: the stomach and the spleen. The health of the stomach and the spleen is therefore very important. So if we want to become or stay healthy, the most important thing is to eat healthy food. The only question is now: What is healthy food?
For strengthening the centre – the stomach and the spleen – there are many different foods and ways, which we will get back to from time to time. This time we will talk about congee, which is used as a stomach-tonic in the healing food therapy: The natural sweetness of the rice will calm down your stomach. At the same time it is the most common food in China for breakfast.
Congee is one of the basics in Chinese food. They eat it mostly for breakfast, and stir-fry some vegetables and cook or fry some eggs to go with it. Congee is eaten salty. It is like buttered toast with jelly for us. People eat it on their way to work in small diners or in hotels on their vacation as well. This is the best breakfast we could think of: substantial and light at the same time. This is how a morning starts in China.
We love congee! We prepare congee quite often for guests or friends for breakfast, and many of them like it a lot, and many of them started to prepare it at home as well. It is very practical for breakfast, because we can cook a bigger amount for the whole week ahead. Warming it up takes only few minutes. Since you can combine it with everything you want, it is a special and exciting meal at the beginning of the day. We have already talked about congee once – then we made it from brown rice and served it with stir-fried cabbage and spring onions or with soy sauce almonds and lycium.
Congee is served mostly with stir-fried vegetables or/and herbs, which on one hand make it taste good, on the other hand strengthen the effect on the body. Apart from vegetables (like spinach, celery or squash for example) you can put nuts and seeds (sesame, peanuts, cashews etc.), cooked beans and lentils or/and herbs and spices (ginger, pepper) in it as well. You can serve it in any combination you can think of.
On the pictures: with coconuts, cocosmilk and black sesame seeds; stir-fried beetroot, carrots, horseradish with soy sauce and balsamic vinegar.
Congee in Chinese is called xi fan, which we could translate as ricewater. The name points out that the rice is cooked in a big amount of water, and becomes very soft in the end. It becomes a rice soup. Instead of rice we can use all kinds of grains (the Chinese do so as well). Congee is very good for the stomach: it is easily digested because of the long cooking time. It gives the body a lot of energy at the beginning of the day, because the body doesn’t get too occupied with digestion. The energy can be used for work… Chinese often give it to chronically sick people or during recovering from an illness, to women after giving birth– congee strengthens the body and gives energy.
- 100 g good quality jasmine rice
- five times as much water than rice (You can measure it in a cup.)
Put the rice in a heavy, iron pot, and pour 5 times as much water to it. Cover it with a lid (!) and cook it for 2,5-3 hours on low heat. After all the water is soaked up, leave it cool down (you can put the pot in cold water, to make it quicker). After cooled down, keep it in the fridge. If you use only a clean spoon to take out the next potion to warm it up, it can be kept in the fridge for at least one week.
- Don’t lift the lid during cooking many times, because the good steam escapes. The steam makes the rice cook evenly.
- Cook it on low heat, because it makes the rice cook evenly. The long cooking time makes this dish more nourishing.