Congee is a traditional porridge used to treat disharmonies in the body, or as I explain it to my patients, a hug for your insides. Congee recipes as medicine were mentioned in the Shang Han Lun, written almost 2000 years ago, and are still used to this day. This porridge is especially good for anyone with an impaired digestive system, upset stomach, or reduced appetite. Also, it is ideal for women who are experiencing painful menses or who are weak after menstruation. For those who are familiar with Traditional Chinese Medicine, this dish warms the stomach and strengthens the spleen. Congee can be made to suit nearly anyone. It can be made sweet or savory. Although congee is traditionally made with rice, it can also be made with other grains such as: barley, millet, coix, and sorghum. It can be made with a variety of proteins, fruits, vegetables, seeds, and herbs. Condiments can include honey (for a sweet congee), soy sauce or amino acids to make it gluten free. Coconut milk appears in some Southwest Asian congees, and I like to use bone broth for a heartier flavor, or veggie broth for a vegan option. The variety of options and flavors is why I like congee as medicine. It can be tailored to nearly every patient and diagnosis by using the five flavors of Traditional Chinese Medicine. It can be made in a large batch, making it easy to grab and go. Cooking styles vary greatly across Asia. The ratio of water varies from 5:1- 12:1, and cooking times range from 30 mins to several hours. I often will just throw my ingredients in the Instant Pot in the morning and let it simmer throughout the day. In general, congees are great for anyone in a weakened condition, and are often the first solid food fed to babies. If you are recovering from the stomach flu or other illness, congees offer an easy to digest dish that can help increase energy. Congees are also used to make traditional herbs that are cold, bitter, or harsh easier to digest: in this case, the herb is usually boiled first, then the concentrate is used in the cooking of the congee. Congee recipes are all over the internet, I encourage you to find some that look tasty and you can always make it your own. I have a recipe that I have played with over the years that is my go to for….everything. Happy cooking!

Author: Gretchen Hunter

 

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