Growing up, congee was always made with white rice, and when eating congee at a Hong Kong diner, this is the way it is made. At home I have always made it this way, but these days, with trying to incorporate more whole grains into my diet, I am making congee with brown rice. (It's also because I don't often have white rice on hand at home, and when the congee craving comes, whatever is in the fridge and cupboard is what is used.) I am getting comfortable with this new congee paradigm. It is just like the usual congee, only slightly grittier and darker in colour. And if you like your congee plain to add garnishes to later, the porridge really serves as a conduit for the added flavours, and the grittiness is hardly noticed. A way to complement the texture is to add pearl barley. It's not considered a whole grain but is super nutritious, and has triple the amount of dietary fiber compared to long-grain white rice. Below is my recipe for brown rice and pearl barley congee. Really, you could put most anything in with the rice, cook it with care, and get a meal that is delightfully comforting.
Brown Rice and Barley Congee (makes 4 hearty servings)
- 1/3 cup pearl barley
- 1/3 cup brown rice (short or long grain)
- *10 cups water
- 1/2 cup diced onion
- 2 cloves chopped garlic
- 2 Tbsp finely sliced ginger
- 1 cup diced carrot
- 1 cup diced celery
- *1/4 cup finely sliced shiitake mushroom or mushroom stem
- 1/2 lb. of (extra) lean ground chicken, turkey (milder flavour) or pork (richer flavour)
- soy sauce, salt, and white pepper to taste
- splash of cider, red or balsamic vinegar (optional)
Bring all ingredients to a rolling boil, then turn the heat to low. Simmer on low for approximately an hour and a half. If you like your carrots and onions a little crisp, add them during the last 20 minutes of cooking. Once done, add any of the following garnishes: sliced green onion, cilantro, fried shallots, salted duck egg, or century egg (my absolute favourite). Enjoy!