Rice congee is rice porridge eaten in many Asian countries where rice is the major grain. It was a poor man’s dish meant to make a little rice go a long way by adding liquid and vegetables, though in many cultures it has become a comfort food. It is also the dish of choice to serve the ill or elderly, as it is easily consumed and digested. There are many regional variations of congee in China. In the Fillipines it is called lúgao, though in Spanish influenced areas it’s arroz caldo. In Korea, the dish is called juk and in Thailand, rice congee is known as jok. In India it is known as ganji, though in Tamil and Kerala it’s kanji. Vietnam has cháo. And Indonesia has bubur.
In detail, there are three variations in Japan: okayu (お粥), ojiya (おじや), and zosui (雑炊). Okayu is made with uncooked rice. Okayu (sometimes called shira-gayu) is generally very thick, though this can be “adjusted” by varying the ratio of water to rice. Ojiya is made with pre-cooked cold rice and generally left unwashed which results in a thick consistency. Zosui is the same as ojiya, but is washed to remove the surface starch, resulting in a clean and light texture.
Zosui is traditionally bland, made with dashi, rice, some vegetables, and sometimes tofu, or a little chicken or seafood. Tori (chicken) zosui is the most common, but I found recipes or descriptions of daikon-zosui (radish), fugu-zosui (blowfish), ikura-zosui (salmon roe), kake-zosui (oyster), kani-zosui (crab meat), suppon zosui (turtle), tai-zosui (sea bream), tamago-zosui (egg), ume-zosui (umeboshi)… Some zosui included miso, bonito flakes, or ginger to flavor the broth. Vegetables included corn, spinach or other greens, kizami nori (shredded seaweed), mushrooms, carrots, green onions… There was even a “Lobster ‘Zosui’ Casserole—Japanese Risotto with Lobster Oyster Shitake Wakame Poached Egg & Clear Dashi Soup!” Now does that not sound delicious?
Rice Consommé with Chicken
serves 2 as a light main dish
- 4 cups dashi
- 5 ounces skinned and boned chicken breast,
cut into strips 2″ long 1/4″ wide
- 1 teaspoon usukuchi shoyu (light colored soy sauce)
- 2 Tablespoons mirin (sweet cooking wine)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 cups day-old cooked Japanese rice
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- fresh-ground black pepper
- Layu (chili-flavored sesame oil)
- 1 bunch mitsuba, cut into 1-inch lengths or coriander or watercress
- 2 Tablespoons toasted peanuts, chopped fine
In a medium pot, bring the dashi to a boil over medium heat. Add the chicken, bring it to a boil, and skim the foam until no more appears. Reduce the heat to low, and cook for 2 minutes. (Note: blanch the chicken first before adding it so the broth will be more clear.)
Season the stock with shoyu, mirin, and salt. Increase the heat to medium, add the day-old rice, and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring with a pair of cooking chopsticks or a fork to separate the rice grains. Cook the rice uncovered for 3 minutes. (Note: I made this when I was very hungry and forgot to rinse the rice, so technically I made ojiya instead of zosui)
Little by little, pour the beaten eggs over the ends of the chopsticks or over the fork tines and evenly onto the rice. Cover the rice, and cook it for a minute or two on low heat. (Note: I was cooking for only myself, and knowing that I’d have leftovers, I only used 1 egg and just mixed it into 1/2 of the recipe. Re-heated poached egg does not appeal!)
Add a genoerous amount of black pepper and chile oil, and give a few large stirs.
Serve the rice consommé garnished with mitsuba greens and peanuts.
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