Friday, May 15, 2009

Mushroom Congee - my way

Congee is a traditional Chinese breakfast dish that is made with white rice. The traditional versions are both savory and sweet. The savory version of the dish frequently includes a little finely minced meat or egg. The sweet version normally contains fruit.

This version is vegan and is made with brown rice. I find this dish to be a nice light low calorie meal that is still somehow substantial. My version starts to veer a little in the Italian direction, but I think it still maintains some of its underlying Asian character. My husband likes Congee, but he refers to it as gruel, which is a good description for those that haven’t had it before. The final dish will be very soft and porridge like.

I have included the mushrooms in this dish since reading that consuming mushrooms has been correlated to a reduction in the risk of breast cancer. I have decided that every little bit of prevention helps. I also included the mushrooms to add a nice “meat like” flavor.

Mushroom Congee or Jook, my way
Serves 6 – 8 servings

Base Ingredients:
1 cup of long grain brown basmati rice
2 grated carrots
6 large cloves of garlic, grated or finely minced (it was about ½ a head for me)
1 red onion, finely minced (I used red for color
1 ounce of dried mushrooms that have been reconstituted and diced finely
11 cups of water (part of it from the mushroom soaking liquid)
2 teaspoons of salt
pepper to taste

Topping ingredients:
Scallions, slivered or parsley minced
liquid aminos or soy sauce
fresh ginger, julienned – optional
roasted sesame seed oil - optional


Reconstitute the mushrooms in water. I use the microwave, because it is easy. I cove the mushrooms with cold water and then heat on high for 2 minutes. I leave the mushrooms in the water for 15 minutes and then remove them from the water and rinse to remove any grit. Dice the mushrooms into small pieces so that will easily fit on a spoon. The mushroom liquid will be used to cook the rice. Pour the mushroom liquid through a fine strainer lined with a layer of cheesecloth or paper towel to remove any dirt that settled to the bottom of the liquid.

Cook base ingredients on a low simmer mostly covered, for an hour to an hour and a quarter. I check the congee about every 15 minutes to make certain that too much water hasn’t evaporated. If it does, add a little more and continue to cook. The mixture should be thick and porridge like. Taste to make certain the rice is very soft and has almost disintegrated. Before the congee gets its toppings it will be a little bland. You may want to add a little black pepper to give it more flavor at this point.

When you are ready serve top with slivered scallions or parsley and drizzle with soy sauce or liquid aminos and/or sesame seed oil. The slivered ginger will give the dish a more Asian flavor.


This dish can also be made in the slow cooker overnight while you sleep. That makes it perfect breakfast food since it will be ready when you wake up. If you choose to use the slow cooker set the cooker to low. I would have used the slow cooker today but it was already busy making a big batch of seitan roasts for the freezer.

I use the gourmet dried mushroom mix from Costco a lot at our house. Those are the mushrooms that went in this dish. It is a blend of morels, porcini, Brazilian caps, ivory portabellas, shiitake, and oyster mushrooms. However, any dried mushroom would be fine. This dish would also work with fresh mushrooms if you prefer to use those.

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