The Chinese call the dish Congee, another name is Jook, a soupy porridge made with rice, water, vegetables and other ingredients to boost longevity, soothe the ill and strengthen the digestive system. It is also known as rice water, and in China it is a traditional breakfast food. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the stomach rules holding the food, while the spleen governs the transportation and transformation of the food. Their ability to work properly is considered so important that the qi energy of the human body rests on the proper function of the spleen and stomach. A bowl of warm rice congee taken for breakfast fortifies the spleen, harmonizes the stomach and is a great meal to start your day.
Here in the West we mostly eat a morning porridge of warm oatmeal topped with milk and a sweetener. However, according to acupuncturist Dr. Bob Flaws, author of The Book of Jook, oats are very moistening to the lungs and due to a diet high in fats, fruit juice, dairy products and sugar, oats are not always the best grain for Westerners’ already damp condition.
Congee is simple and easy to make. A small amount of grain with 5-6 times more water and a pinch of sea salt. The dish can be made with a single grain, such as rice, or a combination of grains, beans, vegetables, or medicinal herbs. Although it may take some getting used to switching from a sweet to a savory breakfast you will soon notice an improvement in your digestive functions and the consistent level of energy throughout the morning.
Rice congee is beneficial for people with week digestion due to a poor diet or illness. Since it is light and easy to digest it is recommended for those too sick to eat solid foods. In this case first strain the cooked congee and serve the liquid. This liquid food can also be used as a supplement for nursing babies.
Congee can be made on top of the stove, but for ease and convenience a crock-pot works the best. Assemble the ingredients in the evening and let it cook on Low through the night. In the morning a healthy breakfast will be waiting to help you kick start your day.
Rice Congee with Millet
1/2 cup short grain brown rice
1/4 cup millet
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
5 cups water.
1. Place ingredients in a small crock-pot and cook overnight or throughout the day on low heat.
2. You can also soak ingredients covered overnight in a heavy saucepan. In the morning bring to a low boil, reduce heat and stirring often, simmer about 2-4 hours.
Millet is used in this recipe as it is also very nourishing for the spleen. Chopped root vegetables, beans, lentils, and medicinal herbs can be added before cooking and simmered right along with the grains. This makes for a rich and delicious breakfast, lunch or light dinner. Serve with:
- A variety of cooked greens such as kale, spinach, collard greens, or Swiss chard.
- Cooked beans, tempeh or tofu.
- Roasted pumpkin seeds and/or sesame seeds.
- Sauteed sea vegetables or strips of nori seaweed.
- Sautéed onions, ginger and garlic.
- Baked sweet squash.