By Hayley Stobbs R.Ac, CNC
Congee is a warm medicinal porridge that is rooted in traditional Chinese culture. It is consumed preventatively as a way to boost digestive and immune system health, as well as during and after illness to assist in recovery. The recipe starts off with a grain (usually rice) with broth or water that is cooked for a long period of time. This creates a soothing creamy texture and an easy-to-digest base. Normally the ratio of water to grain is 1 part grain to 5 parts water. Additions are endless depending on what flavour and colours you desire and it can be savoured for breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner. Popular add-ins include ginger, garlic, tamari or coconut aminos, scallion, and a small amount of protein.
It's important to eat cooked and warm foods during cooler months because atmospheric influences, influence our digestion. Digestion is referred to as our 'middle burner' in Chinese medicine and can be visualized as a stove. Increased rain and clouds during late autumn and winter can bog our stove's ability to burn fuel (food), whereas light, clear, sunny days of spring and summer ignites the potential burning of our stove. Soups and stews made with vegetables, herbs, spices, and a small amount of protein are ideal meals for cool-damp days. Cooked, warm foods pre-digests food fibers, which aids digestive qi's ability to assimilate and absorb nutrients, boosts wei qi (immunity), and regulates metabolism. Another way to protect digestive qi is to avoid depleting it via over-eating. Moderate amounts of food, or eating until you are 70 - 80% full, ensures you have enough energy to digest the food.
Signs and symptoms of low digestive fire include: indigestion, bloating, gas, intestinal cramps, burping, diarrhea, constipation, regurgitation, frequent colds and flus, nausea, and food intolerances.
Congee is largely grain based. If you've studied or read about Chinese diet therapy, why does it promote grains as being a central part of a healing diet? In part I believe this is highly influenced anthropologically, by the economical ability of grain crops to feed large population sizes. My genetic makeup and constitution does not tolerate large amounts of grains and starch which is why the grain: water ratio is so low, though feel free to increase the ratio up to 1/2 - 2/3 cup grain to 4 cups water or broth. I added just enough rice to produce the creamy consistency I desired, which happens to be a great alternative to thickening agents and coconut milk, and opted for more vegetables to increase overall nutrient density. I served my modern day congee with ground turkey.
Note: The following recipe is low FODMAP, which makes it suitable for those with IBS and SIBO.
3 tablespoons white basmati rice
4 cups (1 L) water or bone broth
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup leek, fine sliced *use green part for low-fodmap
1 cup fennel (green stems), fine sliced, optional
2 cups fennel bulb, fine sliced
3/4 cup parsnip, fine diced
3/4 cup carrot, fine diced
1 1/2 cups shiitake mushroom, fine sliced *oyster mushroom for low-fodmap
3/4 - 1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon each: dried oregano, sage, and dill
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
1 bunch fresh parsley or cilantro, chopped
1. Rinse and strain 3 tablespoons of basmati or jasmine rice in a fine sieve.
Slow-cook: Cook with 4 cups water or broth overnight, or for 8 hours and a minimum of 4.
Pressure cooker or multi-cooker instant pot: Pressure cook for 30 minutes.
Stove-top: Bring to a boil in a medium sized sauce-pan right before you head to bed. Reduce to medium low heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover, and allow the mixture to sit overnight.
2. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large saucepan (pot). Add the vegetables as you complete preparing in the order as they are listed. Reduce to medium-low heat. Cover, leaving the lid slightly ajar, and stir every few minutes.
3. Once the vegetables are soft add the sea salt, dried herbs, and rice-water mixture. Simmer for 5 minutes.
4. When done cooking stir in the vinegar or lemon juice and fresh chopped herb.
I hope my post has given you insight today. If you’re interested in nutrition and acupuncture I’d be happy to guide you along. Please visit www.vcaspa.com to book online or call 250-590-4341. To learn more about my acupuncture practice, follow @hayley_stobbs on Instagram.
Wishing you love & vitality,
Hayley Stobbs R.Ac, CNC