Friday, December 3, 2021

Congee Has Been a Part of Chinese Culinary Culture for Years

The practice of drinking congee has been a part of Chinese culinary culture for thousands of years. Grains are the main ingredients of this drink. They are rich in fiber and vitamins that can help control cholesterol, protect the heart, and prevent obesity. A small bowlful is enough to satisfy bodily needs and supplement nutrients that are lacking.

According to research by Harvard University, which spanned 14 years and recruited more than 10,000 subjects, a small bowl of congee daily is the key to a long life. The findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine in early 2015, They pointed out that by taking 28 grams of whole grains a day (approximately a small bowl of oatmeal porridge), the overall death rate was lowered by 5 percent, and the death rate caused by heart diseases was lowered by 9 percent. Congee here does not mean plain rice porridge on its own.

The historical text Recipes for Daily Living, written during the Qing Dynasty, pointed out: “Rice is sweet and gentle, and good for cooking. A drink made of it is the best food supplement on earth.” The great physician Li Shizhen of the Ming Dynasty remarked: “Eat a big bowl of congee every morning. It is the best culinary practice because it greatly nourishes the empty belly and the weak stomach, and suits the digestive system well.”

A bowl of chicken congee. (Image: YouTube/Screenshot)
A bowl of chicken congee. (Image: Screenshot via YouTube)

Congee oil

When congee is cooked with rice or millet, there is a fine sticky layer on top that looks like oil. Chinese medical doctors name it rice oil, or it’s more generally known as congee oil. The top layer contains the most nutrients, which are beneficial for the elderly, expectant mothers, and people with chronic stomach or digestive problems. The sweet and mild nature of these two grains is effective in vitalizing the energy and nourishing the spleen and stomach. Drinking rice oil consistently can help strengthen bodily vigor and speed up recovery.

Golden congee

Golden congee is a porridge cooked with millet, corn, and pumpkin, which is beneficial for people with stomach problems. Millet is the best for the elderly, sick people, and delivered mothers; corn nourishes the spleen and stomach; pumpkin revitalizes. Adding a few jujubes (Chinese dates) to help blood circulation and adjusting the five major organs can achieve an even better result of nourishment.

Chinese rice congee. (Image: Daiju Azuma via wikimedia CC BY-SA 2.5)
Chinese rice congee with rousong and zha cai. (Image: Daiju Azuma via Wikimedia)

Congee recipes

Fresh ginseng and dry lotus seed congee

Ingredients: 1 fresh ginseng, 10 pitted dry lotus seeds, 100g rice, rock sugar (moderate amount)

Method: Wash ginseng, lotus seed, and rice; slice ginseng and put all three in a pot with water; bring to boil; cook on low heat till everything becomes soft and tender; add a suitable amount of sugar to sweetness level of your liking.

Fresh ginseng is mild in nature. It is effective in nourishing the spleen and kidneys, calming the mind, and nurturing the brain. Elderly who have sore waists and knees, frequent urination at night, and weak appetites can benefit much from this. Eating once daily for a week can greatly improve your sleep.

Oatmeal congee

Oatmeal congee can effectively control body weight and adjust blood lipids to a normal level. It is good for everyday consumption for people with weight problems, hyperlipidemia, coronary heart disease, or even normal healthy people.

Put a bit more water in the pot to cook the congee. When it is done, cook for an extra 10 minutes on low heat. You can add milk for the elderly and young. You can also make it savory by adding some minced pork for extra protein.

Chinese ginseng powder and jujube congee

Ingredients: 3 g Chinese ginseng powder, 5 jujubes, 100 g rice, rock sugar (moderate amount)

Method: Wash and pit the jujubes, and put the jujubes, Chinese ginseng powder and rice in a pot with water; cook till everything is soft and tender; add a suitable amount of sugar to sweetness level of your liking.

Eating this twice a day can help nourish blood and stop bleeding. It is good for people with blood problems.

Translated by Ceci and edited by Derek Padula

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Emma Lu
Emma Lu is an author who specializes in Cultural and Historical myths and stories.

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