Savory Winter Congee

Each morning, our bodies awake with a few different needs: first we move and then we need to be nourished. Here, a simple, savory congee offers excellent nutritional support in winter – a perfect time to nourish the kidney qi and yin. The pork topping is optional.


Makes 4 servings



dried shiitake mushrooms

warm water

1 large leek

1/2 cup (125 mL) sweet (glutinous) brown rice

1 cup (250 mL) diced peeled sweet potatoes


Pork Topping (Optional)

8 oz (250 g) pork shoulder or pork loin, trimmed

4 oz (125 g) tender greens, such as spinach or mustard, stemmed

1 tbsp (15 mL) avocado oil

1 tsp (5 mL) salt

1 tbsp (15 mL) julienned gingerroot (optional)



  1. Place shiitake mushrooms in jar and pour in enough warm water to fill. Seal lid and let stand, shaking jar once or twice, for 2 to 8 hours.
  2. Drain mushrooms, Trim off and discard stems. Coarsely chop mushrooms. Trim roots and all but 1 inch (2.5 cm) of the dark green leaves off leek and discard. Cut leek in half lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 1/2 inch (1 cm) wide pieces. Rinse very well in 2 changes of water to remove grit.
  3. In a medium saucepan, combine mushrooms, leek 5 cups (1.25 L) water and rice. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 1/2 hours. The congee should have a souplike consistency; if there is not enough liquid left in the pan, add up to 1/2 cup (125 mL) more water as needed. Stir in sweet potatoes and simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. Pork Topping (if using): Meanwhile, cut pork into 1/4 inch (0.5 cm) thick slices. Stack a few slices at a time and cut into 1/4 inch (0.5 cm) wide strips. Cut greens into thin shreds.
  5. In a large skillet, heat oil over high heat, swirling to coat bottom of pan. Add pork, greens and salt and cook, stirring often, for 3 to 4 minutes or until pork is no longer pink inside and greens are wilted.
  6. Spoon congree into bowls and garnish with pork mixture and ginger (if using). Serve immediately.


Cooking Tips

If you’re not using the optional pork topping, garnish the congee with 1/4 cup (60 mL) toasted sesame seeds (white or black) before serving. Toast them in a medium skillet over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes or until fragrant. White sesame seeds nourish the kidneys, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and help prevent constipation. 


Health Tips

Pork is a sweet, salty meat that nourishes the kidney yin. Often used in Chinese medicine, pork can be added in small amounts to recipes as a supplement to strengthen the low back and relieve dryness. It’s very useful for women going through menopause.

The addition of shiitake mushrooms makes this congee an excellent immune-system tonic.


Savory Winter Congee


Source: Nutritional Healing with Chinese Medicine by Ellen Goldsmith, MSOM, LAc, DipCH with Maya Klein, PhD