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
4 dried shiitake mushrooms
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)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Spoon congree into bowls and garnish with pork mixture and ginger (if using). Serve immediately.
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.
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.