Rice Porridge (Congee)

One of my husband’s favorite comfort foods is rice porridge – zhou in Mandarin, also called congee. It makes a warming breakfast (the kids like it with a sprinkling of sugar), a hearty lunch, and nothing beats it for when you have tummy troubles – we serve it when someone has the flu, and I ate LOTS of it when I had morning sickness!

Zhou served plain for breakfast would be downright boring (Americans on tour groups are often underwhelmed by this offering!), but served alongside it there is usually an array of tidbits you can add to taste: pickles, 1000 year old eggs, etc. You’ll also find a version of Chinese fried dough – long thin sticks called youtiao. These are not sweet, but they are light and airy and delicious, and they are often dunked into the porridge or cut up and tossed on top. If you live near an Asian market, you may well find them in the freezer section – you can heat them up in a variety of ways. They are delicious when made at home, but they involve lots of deepfrying, a method I try to avoid for health reasons, so we tend to reserve them for a special treat when we eat breakfast out at a Chinese restaurant. And there you have it: “Doughnuts” with a Cup of Zhou (aha ha ha)!

Zhou also has a variety of savory permutations, the most common ones probably being with fish slices or with pork and preserved (1000 year old) eggs. You’ll often see these at Cantonese restaurants that serve dim sum. Below I offer the straightforward plain version – variations to follow!


  • 1 c white medium-grain rice, such as jasmine
  • 7 c water or broth
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp light soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp sesame oil


  1. Rinse and soak the rice for 30 m., then drain away the water.
  2. Add the fresh water or broth, bring to a rolling boil, then reduce to a simmer.
  3. Cover partially, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 45 – 60 m, until the rice is almost completely fallen apart and the porridge is thick.
  4. Season with salt, soy sauce, and sesame oil, and serve.

tips and tricks:

This is a great way to use up leftover rice – add 4 c of liquid per cup of cooked rice, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cook 30-45 m, then season.

nutritional data:

I have used water in place of broth for these figures, and I assume that the recipe serves 4. The figures given are per serving. If you’re watching your sodium intake, try cutting down on the salt and/or soy sauce and serve with some really flavorful condiments.

  • Total calories 179, calories from fat 5
  • Total fat 1 g, saturated fat 0 g
  • Cholesterol 0 mg
  • Sodium 417 mg
  • Total carbs 39 g, dietary fiber 0 g, sugars 0 g
  • Protein 3 g

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