When I was a kid, we regularly had congee… on most Sundays we had lunch at a Chinese dimsum restaurant and the main meal was either noodles or congee. My favorite was Lean Pork and Century Egg Congee, sans the fresh egg!
Sadly that restaurant no longer exists. But my favorite congee variant is pretty common and can be found virtually in any Chinese dimsum restaurant!
At the same time, we had lugaw too. As I knew it, lugaw is a plain, no flavor, thick but at the same time watery rice that was usually served to me when I was not feeling well. Needless to say, I do not have nice memories of lugaw!
And then, there is arroz caldo… rice gruel that is savory and deliciously seasoned – with ginger strips, chicken or beef tripe, spring onions, fried garlic!
What’s the difference? Darned if I know!!!! all of them are rice porridge/gruel dishes. As far as I am concerned, lugaw is straight-up rice and water and nothing else… great for calming an upset stomach or relieving a headache…
As for congee and/or arroz caldo, I feel they are the same just with different flavor profiles.
In any case, we all know that the secret is to keep stirring the pot, otherwise the rice sticks to the bottom and the dish would be ruined.
But I am too lazy to stand by the stove and stir, so I make mine in my magic cooker (thermal cooker)… which I truly believe is the easiest way to make congee. It does, however, take a certain amount of time, so I always begin the night before.
8 cups chicken stock
1/2 to 3/4 cup rice
1 large thumb of ginger
1 small onion, whole, skin peeled off and ends sliced off
spring onions, sliced finely
800 grams chicken, cleaned, chopped into serving pieces
50 grams fresh enoki mushrooms
50 grams fresh shiitake mushrooms
salt and pepper, to taste
sesame oil, to taste
toasted garlic or fried garlic
How easy is this recipe? Well, it is as easy as dumping everything (not including the condiments – salt, pepper, sesame oil, garlic) in the inner pot and letting it boil for 15 minutes before putting the inner pot into the magic cooker and letting it sit overnight.
The next morning, I just reheat the pot (the pot looks very much undone when it is first opened but a few minutes on the stove and the magic is seen!), give the dish several stirs and the congee is done. What is left is to season, garnish and serve the dish!