Rice Congee for Healthy Digestion

healthy digestionMy stomach has been feeling off lately – a combination of indulgent meals plus life stress has taken a toll on my usually healthy digestion. So last night I made myself a giant pot of ginger-turmeric rice congee. Congee is a classic restorative food in Chinese medicine. It’s warming, easy to digest, and eating it is a bit like getting a comfy hug in food form. It usually contains fresh ginger (sheng jiang) to harmonize the stomach, and I added fresh turmeric (jiang huang) for extra oomph.

Congee is a wonderful choice if your digestion is off for any reason, if you’re recovering from a virus and still feeling weak, if you’re a newly postpartum mama, and for kids of all ages. Plus, it’s super easy to make and you probably have most of the ingredients in your kitchen right now.

Did I mention the pot I made was giant? I looked at it and thought “Oops, that might have been too much.” But when my daughter saw it, she said “Yay! I love that stuff!” She ate a big bowl for dinner, asked for it in her school lunch today, and I had it for dinner and lunch as well. Now I’m glad I cooked so much!

Here’s my recipe so you can try your own giant pot at home.

Big Pot o’ Congee

  • 1 ½ cups long grain white or brown rice
  • 7-8 cups water (for more flavor, sub a good quality broth for all or part of the liquid)
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces *(see below for veggie version)
  • 1 thumb-sized piece fresh ginger, cut into a few pieces
  • Salt to taste

Put the rice, water, ginger, and 1 tsp salt in a large heavy pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover the pot, and cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. Add more water/broth if it looks dry – brown rice will require more liquid than white and will take longer to cook.

After 30 minutes, add the chicken. Continue to cook, adding liquid as needed, until the chicken is cooked and the rice is almost falling apart. The congee should be slightly soupy and have a very soft consistency. This isn’t food you need to chew very much!

Taste and add salt as needed. Garnish with one or more of the following:

  • Additional fresh ginger, peeled and cut into thin strips
  • Grated fresh turmeric
  • Cilantro
  • Green onions
  • Soy sauce
  • Sesame oil

For a vegetarian version, make a broth by simmering a few dried mushrooms in several cups of water for 30-45 minutes (shiitake or porcini are great). Use this as the cooking liquid and add chopped fresh mushrooms (any kind you like, or a mix) halfway through the cooking time.

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