Your journey to better health

Winter Warmer Congee Recipe

Quick post and a recipe as a cold front makes it's way through New England...

On a cold winter day, there is nothing quite like a hot bowl of congee (pronounced KON gee) to warm your body. Congee, also known as jook or juk, is a rice porridge commonly made in China.  Although congee itself is rather bland, it acts as a base for many toppings, including ginger root, scallions, soy sauce, sesame oil, fish, peanuts, shrimp, and eggs.

Made with 1 part rice to about 12-16 (!) parts liquid, congee is easy to digest and tonifies the body - perfect for helping boost immunity, maintaining strength during illness, and recovering after an illness.

The following congee is prepared with astragalus root (the Chinese name for astragalus is Huang Qi) - which you may leave out if it is difficult to find.  If you can find it, though, astragalus is an important herb to relieve weakness and fatigue and enhance stamina and immunity.  Astragalus root can be found at Asian herb shops or selected health food stores.  It is about a dried, slightly yellow root approximately 5 inches in length.  See images below for cut and uncut preparations of astragalus root.

Uncut astragalus root


While this soup takes an hour and a half from start to finish, most of the time it is simmering on the stove, and the time you’re actually devoting to it is minimal. If you think of it, pre-soaking your rice will result in an even more tender and creamy soup.

3/4 cup short grain brown rice (or any good quality rice you have on hand), washed

8  cups water, or stock of your choice

1 oz astragalus root

1 1/2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and julienned

3 or 4 dried shiitake mushrooms, cut into thin slices with a scissors (after removing the stems)

sesame oil, preferably (or canola or other similar oil)

1 small onion, peeled and diced

1 cup daikon radish, diced

1 cup carrots, diced

1 tablespoon mirin, optional

salt, soy sauce, white miso to taste

2 green onions, slivered, as garnish

1. Bring the water or stock to a boil in a soup pot.  Add a pinch of salt, the rice, astragalus root, ginger, and shiitake mushrooms.  Bring back to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer and simmer about an hour and 20 minutes or until the rice is partly dissolved into a creamy broth. Add more water as needed to make a soup of the consistency you prefer.

2. While the rice is simmering, heat a sauté pan and sauté the vegetables with a pinch of salt about five minutes, or until beginning to be soft. Then, cover with three cups water, add the mirin and a teaspoon of soy sauce and simmer very slowly about 35 minutes or until all the vegetables are meltingly tender.

3. Add the vegetables to the rice pot, stir and simmer about 5 minutes more. Taste and season, adding a tablespoon of white miso, if you like, or a little bit of soy sauce.

4. Remove the astragalus root from the congee (you will not eat the herb itself)

This soup is meant to be mildly seasoned.  Garnish with green onions, pickled vegetables, or whatever toppings appeal to you.  Excellent reheated the next day.

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