|Chinese rice congee with rousong and zha cai (coriander in side bowl)|
|Min Chinese name|
|Kanji||1. 粥 |
|Hiragana||1. かゆ |
|Khmer||បបរ bâbâr ()|
|Bengali||জাউ jau (IPA: )|
|Burmese||ဆန်ပြုတ် san byohk|
Congee is a type of rice porridge popular in many Asian countries. It can be eaten alone or served with a side dish. Names for congee are as varied as the style of its preparation. Despite its many variations, it is always a thick porridge or soup of rice which has usually disintegrated after prolonged cooking in copious water.
To prepare the dish, rice is boiled in large amounts of water until it softens significantly. Congee can be made in a pot or in a rice cooker. Some rice cookers have a "congee" setting, allowing it to be cooked overnight. The rice used can either be sticky or regular depending on the country's common practice. Culture also often dictates the way congee is cooked and eaten.
In other Asian cultures, it is also called kanji (Tamil/Malayalam/Tulu), ganji (Kannada/Telugu), juk (Cantonese, Korean), cháo (Vietnamese), chok (Thai), kayu (Japanese), lúgaw (Filipino), or jaou (Bengali) which is derived directly from the Chinese character zhou (粥, which means gruel in Mandarin). Zhou is also called xifan in some Chinese provinces.
In some cultures, congee is eaten primarily as a breakfast food or late supper; in others, it is eaten as a substitute for rice at other meals. It is often considered particularly suitable for the sick as a mild, easily digestible food.
In Bangladesh, congee, known as konji jaou or kanji jaou (which comes directly from the Chinese character zhōu or gruel), along with panta bhat, is popular throughout the whole country, more so in rural areas than urban. It is made by repeatedly boiling rice in large quantities of water. The result is a thick white broth. Its consistency and colour are dictated by the water-to-rice ratio (which can be from 5:1 to 13:1) and the various types of rice used. Glutinous rice is often used in Sylhet and Khulna, which makes the broth quite distinct from other types in the country. In some parts of the country, it is smoked while cooking, giving it a unique aroma. It is usually served for breakfast with lime, salt, chilli and fried shallot. On its own, it is fed to the unwell as it is believed to be beneficial to the digestive system.
In Burma, rice congee is called san byohk: literally "rice boiled". It is very thin and plain, often made with just rice and water, but sometimes with chicken or pork stock and served with a simple garnish of chopped spring onions and crispy fried onions. As in other Asian countries, san byohk is considered lu ma mar zar ("food for the unwell").
In Cambodia, rice congee (babaw) is widely eaten for breakfast. Plain congee is typically eaten with salted eggs, pickled vegetables, or dried fish. Chicken congee, pig's blood congee, and seafood congee are also commonly eaten.
There are many regional variations of Chinese congees (Chinese: 粥; pinyin: zhōu). For example, to make Cantonese congee, white rice is boiled in many times its weight of water for a long time until the rice breaks down and becomes a fairly thick, white porridge (Pinyin: báizhōu). Congees made in other regions may use different types of rice with different quantities of water, producing congees of different consistencies.
Congee is often eaten with zhacai, salted duck eggs, lettuce and dace (Cirrhinus chinensis) paste, bamboo shoots, youtiao, rousong, pickled tofu, wheat gluten, with other condiments, meat or century eggs.
Congee is often eaten with fried bread sticks known as youtiao. Congee with youtiao is commonly eaten as breakfast in many areas in China. Congee can be left watery, or can be drained so it has a texture similar to Western oatmeal porridge. Congee can also be made from brown rice, although this is less common and takes longer to cook.
Besides being an everyday meal, congee is considered to be food therapy for the unwell. Ingredients can be determined by their supposed therapeutic value as well as flavor.
The origin of congee is unknown, but from many historical accounts, it was usually served during times of famine, or when numerous patrons visited the temples, as a way to stretch the rice supply to feed more people.
In China, congee has also been used to feed young infants. However, the cooking time is much longer than for okayu and, because it is for infants, the congee is not seasoned with salt or any other flavoring. Often it is mixed with steamed and deboned fish.
Congee made from other grains, such as cornmeal, millet, barley, and sorghum, are common in the north of China where rice does not grow as well as other grains suited for a colder climate. Multigrain congee mixes are sold in the health food sections of Chinese supermarkets. Congee with mung beans is usually eaten with sugar, like red bean congee.
In Tamil Nadu, a plain rice porridge, or the thick supernatant water from overcooked rice, is known as kanji. The people of Kerala also call this preparation of rice in a watery state kanji, and it is eaten as a porridge with green lentils or chutney. Kanji is prepared with rice or ragi. Nuts and spices are added to the kanji depending on the economic status or health requirements. Rice kanji is prepared by boiling rice in large amounts of water. To this preparation either milk and sugar/jaggery or curd(youghurt) and salt are depending. Ragi kanji is prepared by drying raji sprouts in shade, and then grinding them into a smooth powder. This powder is added to water and cooked. Milk and brown sugar is added to this cooked preparation for taste. Ragi kanji can be given to infants after 6 months. There is another kanji preparation - jevvarisi (sago in English) (sabudana in Hindi) kanji. Sago is dry roasted and powdered with/ without sugar. Powdered sago is boiled in water until cooked. This is eaten by adults and infants of 3 months.
According to the Indian writer Madhur Jaffrey, "kanji" is, or is derived from, a Tamil word for "boilings", referring to the porridge and also to any water in which rice has been cooked.
In the Goa, Udupi and Mangalore districts, people usually eat rice ganji in a variant manner made by Kannada-speaking, Tulu-speaking or Konkani people in and around Udupi and Mangalore (Karnataka, South India). Here, parboiled rice (kocheel akki in Kannada, oorpel aari black rice bulenta aari white rice in Tulu or ukadey tandool in Konkani) is steamed with a large amount of water. Jain ganji matt are famous in these districts. Usually simple ganji with pickle and milk are served, in Jain matts. Fresh coconut is grated, and the resulting milk skimmed and added to the ganji (called pej in Konkani), which is served hot with fish curry, coconut chutney, or Indian pickles. In Goa, it is normally served with dried or fresh cooked fish, papad or vegetables.
“Kanji”. Kanji is an authentic and traditional Oriya dish. People in Orissa like it because of its unique taste. It is a soup based dish like Dal but tastes little sour. This is a very healthy dish as lots of vegetables and curd are used as main ingredients.
In Portugal, a traditional soup made of rice and chicken meat is named canja. The rice is not cooked for as long as in Asian congee, so it is very soft, but not disintegrated. Traditionally, a boiling fowl containing small, immature eggs is used; the eggs are carefully boiled and served in the canja. This soup is sometimes served with a fresh mint leaf on top. Canja is traditionally given to people recovering from disease, as in Asia, and is strongly valued as comfort food. In some regions of Portugal, there is even an ancient custom of feeding the mother a strict diet of canja in the first weeks after childbirth. It is also eaten traditionally in Brasil and Cabo Verde, formerly Portuguese colonies.
In Sri Lanka, rice congee is known as kola kanda in Sinhalese, and tends to have various local indigenous herbs and plants mixed in with it. It is traditionally eaten for breakfast, and consists of rice, water and local herbs (gotu kola). It is also eaten by Sri Lankan Muslims for iftar during Ramadan. It is also occasionally made with oats. Tamils and Muslims in Sri Lanka call it aarisi kanji (rice kanji) and use chicken or beef for it. It is sometimes made with milk (paal kanji), and there are many other combinations with appropriate prefixes in Tamil.
In Taiwan, congee is prepared in the same way as in Fujian Province, China, and consists of rice and water, with few other ingredients. Sweet potato is often added for taste, and eggs are sometimes beaten into it to thicken it to a gruel. As with most Chinese styles, congee is often served to the ill and those with difficulty chewing. A variety of side dishes are often served with congee as well.
In Vietnam, rice congee, called cháo, is sometimes cooked with pandan leaves or Asian green beans. In its simplest form (plain rice porridge) it is a food for times of famine and hardship, when rice is not abundant. Or, as is especially common among Buddhist monks, nuns and lay people, it can be a simple breakfast food eaten with pickled vegetables or fermented tofu. Despite its humble ubiquity among the poor, it is also popular as a main entrée when cooked with a variety of meats. For example, cháo gà is a variety of cháo cooked with chicken, garlic, and ginger. The rice porridge is cooked in the broth in which a whole chicken had been boiled, and once the chicken is cooked, the meat is sliced and layered on a bed of shredded, uncooked cabbage, sliced onions, and drizzled with a vinegar-based sauce, to be eaten as a side dish to the porridge. Other combinations include cháo vịt (duck porridge), which is cooked in the same fashion as the chicken porridge, but with duck. Cháo lòng heo is made with lòng heo (a variety of pork entrails, including sliced cakes of congealed pork blood). It is also common to eat cháo during an illness, as it is believed the porridge is easy to digest while being fortifying. For such purposes, the cháo is sometimes cooked with roasted white rice, giving the porridge broth a more nuanced body and a subtle, nutty flavor. On a related note, in some parts of Vietnam, local customs call for making cháo for death anniversary ceremonies, during which it is offered to fortify the spirits of the dead. (This tradition, however, is not widely practiced and seems to contradict the general principle of providing only the best food for one's ancestors.)
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