Chinese Light Meal – Cantonese Chicken Congee 鸡粥

Chinese Chicken Porridge 001 edited re-sized

My father’s association with Thailand was in his later teenage years where he had worked to support his mother and numerous siblings who were then living in Southern China. Hence, Thai jasmine rice was a staple at home. Thai Jasmine rice is highly regarded internationally even in those days. Broken jasmine rice is the cheapest jasmine rice available, as this consists of rice grains that were broken in the milling process, and sorted out. These broken jasmine rice grains are perfect for making Cantonese congee since these grains cook down in much less time into a smooth and creamier consistency.

The cook in my father’s household used to counsel us kids about how fortunate we were to have such fragrant whole grain rice at mealtimes. Being Teochews, our rice porridge was cooked from whole grains and it is of a different consistency than Cantonese congee. Have a look at the bowl of rice porridge in the photo below to see the difference. My father enjoyed a similar breakfast each morning but us kids would scurry away as we preferred toast with ham, eggs or anything “ang moh” in colonial Singapore.

Image from jooseng_teochewporridge. re-sized

Nonetheless, we enjoyed the Cantonese congee served at Dim Sum restaurants. When I found a recipe teaching me how to make Cantonese congee without having to search for broken rice grains; to soak whole rice grains over night; and even to freeze washed rice grains in the freezer for ta least 4 hours, I had to try it. Comfort food for many cold or wintry days. Success!

 Ingredients

Chinese - Chicken Porridge 002 edited re-sized

  • Centre . Washed and drained rice (1 1/2 cups US standard cup). Fragrant jasmine rice drained in the colander for about 20 mins. Shredded cooked chicken breast.
  • Front. Besides the usual condiments in marked bottles from L to R. Shredded old ginger, chopped spring onions and plucked cilantro.

 Preparation of the Rice

Chinese - Chicken Porridge 003 edited re-sized

STEP 1. Grind the washed and drained whole rice grains for just a few minutes. Caution – do not over grind and turn it into rice flour! The end result for the texture of the ground rice grains is shown in the photo below – coarse sand.

Chinese - Chicken Porridge 004 edited re-sized

STEP 2. Season the grainy rice with some salt, a small dash of light soy sauce and sesame oil and set aside to season for about 1 hour. Chicken broth (obtained from cooking a whole skinned chicken breast) will also be added to water to cook the ground rice later on.

HINT: Substitute chicken broth with pork broth if you are intending to cook Century Egg with Shredded Pork Congee.

 Cooking the Rice Porridge

Chinese Chicken Porridge 005 edited re-sized

STEP 1. In a medium stock pot, add the chicken broth and water (cover with a lid at an angle to release steam) and bring it to rapid boil. Add in the seasoned ground rice.

Chinese Chicken Porridge 006 edited re-sized

STEP 2. Important to continue stirring as this prevents the rice grains from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Stirring also  the loosens the rice grains.

Chinese Chicken Porridge 008 edited re-sized

STEP 3. Once in while, lift up the lumps of half cooked rice grains and press to break them apart. This prevents lumpy congee. You may have to adjust the consistency of this congee by adding more water. Add 1/2 cup of water each time.

RECIPE

Serves 4 to 6 adults.

Ingredients:

  •  1 1/2 cups Fragrant Jasmine Rice, washed and drained
  • 1 large whole chicken breast (or 2 medium sized chicken legs), de-boned and skinless and cut into 2 halves
  • 5 to 6 cups Water
  • Cornflour slurry made of 1 Tbsp cornflour mixed with 1/4 cup of water

Seasoning for roughly ground rice

  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 Tbsp Light soy sauce or fish sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil

Traditional Garnishes

  • Chopped fresh cilantro
  • Chopped spring onions
  • finely shredded old ginger

Optional

  • Fried chopped Garlic
  • a few drops of garlic oil or cooking oil
  • 4 pairs of Chinese crullers or You Tiao 油条

Method:

1.Preparing the Ground Rice.

  • Grind the washed and drained whole rice grains for just a few minutes. Caution – do not over grind and turn it into rice flour! The end result for the texture of the ground rice grains is coarse sand.
  • Season the grainy rice and set aside for about 1 hour. Chicken broth (obtained from cooking a whole skinned chicken breast) will also be added to water to cook the ground rice later on.

2. Preparing the shredded chicken.

Meanwhile, bring 2 Cups of water to boil in a medium stock pot. Add chicken breast and cook the breasts for about 30 mins. Lift them into a bowl of tap water to cool. Using your fingers, tear the cooked chicken breast apart to shred it. Set aside. Leave the chicken stock in the stock pot.

3. Cooking the Porridge.

  • In that medium stock pot with the chicken broth, add 3 cups of water (cover with a lid at an angle to release steam) and bring it to rapid boil. Add in the seasoned ground rice.
  • Important to continue stirring as this prevents the rice grains from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Stirring also  the loosens the rice grains.
  • Once in while, lift up the lumps of half cooked rice grains and press to break them apart. This prevents lumpy congee. You may have to adjust the consistency of this congee by adding more water. Add 1/2 cup of water each time.
  • Once the rice grains are cooked and you are satisfied with the consistency of the porridge, add the cornflour slurry and continue stirring and cooking this porridge.

4. Assembling the Chicken Congee.

Use large deep porcelain bowls. Scoop the piping hot congee into these bowl and garnish as shown in the top photo. These can be served with some Chinese crullers or You Tiaos.

HINT: do not add Fried Shallots or shallot oil as these give the congee a very different flavour. Hmm…..some people love this taste though.

Serving Suggestions

Chicken Congee may be served at breakfast or lunch and even for a light supper around 9 to 10 pm.

This congee also frequently accompanies Poh Piah (home-made fresh spring rolls) to round off the meal. Hosting family and friends to a Poh Piah party is something special. Many hours of hard work goes into cooking the delicious filling and the fresh egg skin (something akin to the French crepe); cutting and slicing all the various kinds of toppings and condiments. Just take a look at what goes into a fresh poh piah in the photo below. My advice – Always accept an invitation to a poh piah party!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The image above has been taken from http://pureglutton.com/popiah-party-home

 

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