Monday, September 2, 2013

Vegan Mofo #3 - Donna’s Rice Congee with Shiitake Mushrooms and Peas

Vegan Mofo #3 - Donna’s Rice Congee with Shiitake Mushrooms and Peas 

The Region - China
The Book - The Chinese Vegan Kitchen
The Author - Donna Klein
The Recipe - Rice Congee with Shiitake Mushrooms and Peas
Page # 41
Difficulty - Easy
Duration - Roughly 25-30 minutes

Today we move on from Korea and travel to China with Donna Klein’s version of Rice Congee. Rice Congee incase you don’t know is a kind of rice porridge common in many Asian countries but particularly China. It can be made thick or watery, and is usually savory though some sweet versions do exist. Typically congee is eaten for breakfast, or sometimes a late supper. Due to it’s typically plain nature, and it’s versatility as a vehicle for healing nutrients congee is also often used as a kind of food therapy for people who are ill. According to Donna Klein it is the ultimate Chinese comfort food, akin to Chicken Noodle Soup in America.

Congee is a food I know a little something about, as it’s often referenced in many of the books that I read on health, Chinese Herbalism, and even Chinese Historical fiction, but it’s not a food I’ve ever eaten myself. So when I saw this recipe in Klein’s “Chinese Vegan Kitchen” I knew I would have to make It eventually. I’m typically not a savory breakfast eater, and I’m usually pretty particular about the kinds of foods I consider breakfast fare, but everything about this dish intrigued me. Maybe because it goes against all of my traditional breakfast food beliefs.

The recipe itself is pretty easy, and comes together quickly. Somehow it seems like the perfect thing to make on a cool grey morning, and I have to say I really loved the smell of it cooking. I know that for the most part it was only rice and salt in water, and then some fried mushrooms, garlic and onion but the smell was comforting. The smell was nourishing, rejuvenating, and made me feel at peace and at home. It’s no wonder that this is considered to be the ultimate comfort food.

As for flavor, I have to say that despite my reservations about eating rice for breakfast I really enjoyed this dish. To me it was the perfect breakfast because it was filling and yet it was light. Every spoonful felt nourishing, and strengthening, every spoonful made me feel like I was doing something good.

Klein’s version of congee uses long-grain white rice - however I used short-grain because that’s all I had - along with salt, toasted sesame oil, dried shiitake mushrooms - though I used fresh because that’s what I had - frozen green peas, scallions, garlic, black pepper, and then the toppings of your choice. She suggests soy sauce, cilantro, Chinese black vinegar, more scallions, and chopped pickled vegetables. Since I wanted to leave my congee more on the simple side I garnished my bowl with a drizzle of soy sauce, a drizzle of Chinese black vinegar, then a sprinkling of scallions and minced pickled ginger.  It was heaven in a bowl, and I can easily see myself making this more and more often as a breakfast dish.

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