Rice Porridge a.k.a Congee

You are probably wondering why in the world I want to talk about porridge, which to a lot of foodie’s thinking is the least interesting food on this planet. Well, hopefully I can change your mind a little by the time you finish reading this post. I believe all of us would have eaten some kind of porridge when we grow up. The type of porridge eaten can vary a great deal depending on cultural background.

Porridge is found in Western culture as well as Eastern culture. In the Western culture, it is probably known as oatmeal porridge, which is boiling oatmeal in water, milk or both. Other type of grains, wheats or legumes is also used. Porridge is a typical way of preparing cereal crops on the table back to antiquity time, until leavened bread and baking ovens become a commonplace in the kitchen.

In Eastern culture, porridge is associated with one type of grain; that is, rice. So naturally it is called “Rice Porridge”, also known as “Congee”. In most traditional Chinese restaurant, you will find porridge listed in the Ala Carte menu as Congee. This dish is also served at Yum-Cha of 2 different varieties; minced pork and century egg congee and fish congee.

I prefer to use the term “porridge” as I am more familiar with the name growing up in Penang, Malaysia. I guess it has something to do with the British influence during the colonial period. Congee is a term I got to know after I moved to Sydney in 1993. In Penang, there are still some hawker stalls selling porridge ranging from the common domestic kind of chicken and fish to something more exotic like pig intestine and other “interesting” organs! The stall still has the sign that said, “Porridge”, not Congee. 

The origin of porridge is unknown, but as far as I can remember, I started eating porridge when I was a baby. My mum will cook the rice in water for a very long time until the rice is completely broken down and the porridge is almost viscous white. Then she will mix in some pre-steamed and deboned fish to flavour the porridge. No salt or other flavouring is used. This practice is still common with the younger generation with newborn baby. Sometime, the porridge is just plain, or combine with little chunk of sweet potato (boiled for a long time for the baby).

As I grow up as a young boy, rice porridge is in my daily diet but in a different dimension. This is commonly eaten at my Chinese immigrated grandparents’s house everyday at lunch time with at least 5 different accompaniments; such as salted duck eggs, preserved Chinese vegetables stir fried with spiced mince pork, a steamed fish, braised chicken dish in soya bean paste, a steamed vegetarian bean curd dish. There has to be a balance of a vegetable, seafood, meat or poultry dishes on the table.

I guess when I was a child playing with my siblings and young uncles and aunties, there are a lot of mouths to feed by my grandparents. So making a big pot of rice porridge is a clever way to stretch the food supply (and save some rice grains and money). Thank god, my grandfather is not around to hear or read this.  

Until today, I still love a bowl of rice porridge every now and then. My partner cannot understand this and is not a fan of my rice porridge except this one below.

DSC00983 I make the above chicken rice porridge by using some leftover rice, chicken and chicken stock in my fridge.

 1 cup cooked rice (leftover) – break the rice with the back of a fork

6-8 cups of water or chicken stock (if you have some in the fridge)

Combine both rice and water or stock in a deep sauce pan. Boil at medium heat, then simmer until the rice is completely broken down and becomes a fairly viscous white porridge.

You can have the condiments on the side or if prefer, combine and mix in the porridge before serving.


Shredded chicken (cooked)

1 teaspoon of finely shredded fresh ginger

½ teaspoon of fried garlic

sprinkle of chopped spring onion (green part)

½ teaspoon of white pepper

1 teaspoon of light soy sauce

½ teaspoon of sesame oil

½ teaspoon of chilli anchovies in black bean sauce (buy in Asian supermarket)

Salt and sugar to taste

This porridge has a multitude of flavour. It is peppery (I like to use more pepper for that peppery flavour) and slightly garlicky from the crunchiness of the fried garlic. It has a good punch of spiciness and saltiness of the chilli anchovy to warm up a cold winter day. The brand I used is pictured below.


Btw, I can eat my porridge at any time of the day, usually in the morning and as a late supper. 🙂

When I am extremely sick, I like to make myself a bowl of blue eye trevalla fish porridge with shredded ginger.

Well, have I change your mind yet for a bowl of chicken porridge?

10 responses to “Rice Porridge a.k.a Congee

  1. Pingback: A Midweek Winter Warming Healthy Meal « Blogocrats

  2. Thanks Victor. I’m not sure I’ll ever eat it, but at least now I’ll know what congee is when I see it on a Chinese menu. 😉

  3. What a fantastic looking recipe, Victor. It never ceases to amaze me the sheer variety of foods from Eastern cultures. Some of those items on your grandparents table sound fascinating.
    Any sambal recipes?

    • Thanks, Handyrab. There are few versions on sambal. The simplest is to pound some chilli padi (or bird eye chilli) with toasted ground belacan using a mortar and pestle. When ready to serve, squeeze a bit of fresh kasturi lime (or calamansi lime).

      For belachan, I always use the brand from Penang (it is the best. Of course, I am not bias. Tee Hee). One of the video below showed where the belachan is make in Penang. It comes in a block. Cut a few thin slices from the block. Toast the slices until they are dry. Do not burn the belachan. Let them cool, then grind using mortar and pestle into powder form. Btw, open all your windows (with fly screen) because the belachan will really stink your entire kitchen for days! Also make sure you have fly screens or you will soon find hundreds of uninvited flies in your kitchen! LOL! Have fun. 🙂

      Btw here is an interesting YouTube video on Penang Street Food. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=odhNzKctM6w&feature=PlayList&p=DBF801E0B70DD010&playnext=1&playnext_from=PL&index=62

  4. Aiyah be true to your roots lah – it’s called chook!!!

    • LOL! Correction, SydneyQueen. “Chook” is cantonese for porridge. I am a Hokkien so it is called “Muai”. In Penang, we commonly refer to porridge as “Muai” at the hawker stall since Penang is predominantly a Hokkien state.

  5. Whatever you call it: Porridge, Chok, Muai or Congee. I like it very much. My favourite is the one as we make it here in Hong Kong, chicken-chok or yue chok (fish), cooked with a lot of white pepper and served with chives on top! In Penang a lot of stalls offer a more watery version.

    • Oh, yes..”Muai”. That is Penang Hokkien – so nice to hear that familiar word again. Welcome to Foodtrail, Jay-P. Are you on Penang Expat Forum as well? I am counting down to my trip to Penang and Laos – 30 days to go! I can’t wait to eat my favourite food and experience Laos for the first time, and blog about the trip. Cheers.

  6. Great.
    Yes, I am the one asking for custom made shirts in Penang on that other forum.
    My wife and I are off to Penang again in 11 days. Was ther more than 12 or 13 times in the last 5 years and I’m loving it! Also, both Cathay and Air Asia offer direct return flights from Hong Kong to Penang nowadays.
    That also is a big incentive for us.

    • Have a great time in Penang! Btw if you are anywhere near Macalister Road, you and your wife should try the Chinese restaurant at the Red Rock Hotel. I have been there a few times with my family. It is cheap too.

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