There used to be a place where my sisters and I consider a must-visit during Eid celebration every year. And that place was my mother’s second cousin’s house. Every 4th day of Eid, they would hold a feast and invite everyone they know over (that’s how Eid is here anyways). Their special menu was: nasi air (Kelantanese beef congee). They would serve their congee with an incredible spread of toppings/condiments that felt almost royalty and everyone would be seen happy mixing their own perfect congee concoction especially the kids. Several years ago, sadly, they stopped serving congee because it was too much work for them and because a lot of their guests kept questioning about the sudden disappearance of it in their menu, they gave out the recipe to those who asked, and one of those people was my mom. I never got a hold of the recipe though and years later, I found myself craving for it thousands of miles away from Kelantan, in the harsh cold winter after reminiscing on those good old Eid memories.
I think rice congee is one of the most versatile dish ever, you can customize it almost any way you want to suit your tastebuds. Because of its soothing and comforting properties, it is traditionally served for the ill, also perfect for those who just got their braces tightened in need of some soft wholesome meal! This was what I had after each appointment and I did not complain at all. Congee is such a classic breakfast dish in Asia that there are a lot of different varieties of it all across Asia and several different ways of making it. I’ve tried some of the different ways but the below recipe is what I’ve come up with and settled for as I find it the easiest, most basic and uses very minimal ingredients, yet results in a flavourful and delicious congee. My special trick is instead of adding garlic to the broth, make garlic oil as a base for the broth. This really adds a punch of flavour and a delicious fragrant to your congee that’ll leave you drooling before you even finish cooking.
Basic Chicken Congee
- 4-5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 inch ginger, thinly sliced
- 10 cups water and/or chicken stock
- 1 chicken breast
- 1 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
- White pepper powder
- 1 cup rice
Toppings (Bold - basic toppings, * - my personal favourite)
- Scallions or green onions*, sliced
- Fried shallots*
- White pepper powder*
- Fresh ginger, julienned
- Cilantro*, roughly chopped
- Toasted sesame oil
- Soy sauce (sweet or light)
- Roasted peanuts*
- Chilli oil
- Fried garlic*
- Fried dried anchovies*
- Chilli flakes*
- Fresh red chilli, sliced
- Salted egg
- Bean sprouts*
- Meat floss
Start off by heating some oil in a large pot and frying chopped garlic until golden brown and crispy. Be careful not to burn it.
Quickly add water or chicken stock together with slices of ginger, chicken breasts, toasted sesame oil, salt and white pepper powder.
Simmer until chicken is fully cooked. Remove chicken and add rice. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer and partially cover pot. Cook the rice until it breaks down into porridge consistency. This process may take over an hour so be patient. Keep adding water or chicken stock if the rice becomes too thick and stir occasionally towards the end to avoid burning the bottom.
Meanwhile, shred the cooked chicken and add it to the congee once it has reached it's perfect consistency OR serve shredded chicken separately as topping. Season congee to taste with salt.
Serve hot with preferred toppings.
- Soak rice in cold water the night before so that congee cooks faster.
- Rice congee thickens overtime so if you keep it in the fridge for later, add some water before heating it up.
- Use whole chicken for a tastier broth!