January 3, 2017

Brrr it’s been cold here lately, and on chilly days like this, there’s nothing better than a hot bowl of congee to warm you up! Congee, or “jook,” is the Chinese equivalent to porridge. It’s the ultimate Chinese comfort food, and every Chinese kid has grown up eating this for breakfast or sometimes lunch. My husband loves it with fish fillet, and I enjoy it with pork and uh, special Chinese egg (I’ll skip the explanation on that one for now). Yummy stuff.

I am Chinese American and I have struggled to get the right congee (or “jook”) consistency for the last 10 years. But it has eluded me time and time again. How could this super easy staple in Chinese cooking be so hard for me?

I’ve tried cooking it over the stovetop for 6-7 hours.

I’ve tried it in the slow cooker for 4-6 hours.

I’ve tried it in the Instant Pot for 2 hours (it’s supposed to be only 30 mins).

I’ve tried each of these methods MULTIPLE TIMES and have only really liked it maybe twice. But I could never replicate the consistency of the one that I liked. Was it the type of rice I used? Had I used day-old refrigerated rice? Was it the temperature that I cooked it at? Was it the liquid to rice ratio? WHAT DID I DO RIGHT AND WHY CAN’T I DO IT AGAIN?

It was embarrassing. Ben was, as always, encouraging, but I started giving up after maybe 5 years of experimenting. Once we had kids, though, I was more determined than ever to get this down. Everybody else’s mom was feeding their kids jook. I had to figure this out. It continued to elude me. The congee was never thick enough, the rice not broken down quite right, the consistency disappointing.

And then one of the savviest and most knowledgeable moms I have ever come across posted a tip that CHANGED MY LIFE: FREEZE THE RICE FIRST. That’s it, folks. Just wash your uncooked rice, stick it in the freezer for at least 8 hours, and then sciencey magic happens and not only does the congee consistency turn out great, but supposedly you can make it in just 20 minutes over the stovetop! Here’s more on the sciencey magic and a detailed and tasty-looking recipe you can try. The main thing to remember is that you really do need to wash, or at least wet your rice before freezing.

Sweet! It worked perfectly the first time, and I am now looking forward to using this method again and again! For me, I keep it simple. I make jook whenever I buy a rotisserie chicken from Costco or Sprouts. I throw in a cup of (frozen) rice with about 7 cups of liquid (mostly chicken stock… I know, I’m a cheater) and the bigger bones and carcass from the rotisserie chicken. Once the porridge timer goes off, I vent it, take out the bones, add in about 2 cups of shredded chicken, and it’s ready to serve.

So tasty and simple! Congee believe it? 😀 HEHE.

Instant Pot Congee Recipe (Stove top recipe below)
Makes about 8 cups


Instructions for Instant Pot

  1. Put frozen washed rice into Instant Pot. Add 7 cups of water and/or chicken stock.
  2. Optional: Add bones of rotisserie chicken. Note that you will have to fish them all out later, which can kind of be a pain, so feel free to skip this step if you’re going for a REALLY simple recipe.
  3. Put on lid and set vent to “seal.” Push the “porridge” button for 20 minutes of pressurized cook time.
  4. Meanwhile, shred 1-2 cups of chicken into bite sized pieces.
  5. When the timer is up, carefully vent the pot and remove the lid. Take out any bones, then stir in the chicken pieces.
  6. Ladle into bowls and add desired toppings (or just eat as is, like my kids do!). Yum! A hearty and delicious meal!

To cook over the stove top:

  1. Bring water and chicken stock to a boil. Add the frozen rice (no need to defrost) and bring to a boil again, stirring the rice to prevent sticking. Reduce heat to a low simmer, and cover and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring the congee every few minutes to prevent sticking on the bottom.
  2. Add mix-ins, simmer for an additional 5 minutes, then serve with any toppings.


14 responses to “Brilliant Trick to Get 20 Minute Congee with GREAT Consistency!”

  1. kristen w says:

    another pro mom tip: mine wraps her jook bones in a cheesecloth and butcher’s twine so she can easily take them out at the end.

    p.s. i’ve been secretly following your blog. hope you’re doing well and back on the volleyball court soon! 🙂

    • joellen says:

      SUPER idea to use the cheesecloth! Then I don’t have to worry about my kids choking on a bone anymore hah!

      P.S. I’M SO FLATTERED THAT YOU’RE FOLLOWING! =D Hope to see you soon! I played at an open gym for the first time this past weekend- SO happy to be on the court again! 😀

  2. Sharon Carroll says:

    Do you think I could do this with a crock pot or does it have to be an ‘instant pot’ – Charlie and Melanie have one so maybe I could try theirs. Happy New Year too!

    • joellen says:

      Yes you absolutely could do this with a crock pot! Actually I read (on this blog that I had linked in the post) that you can cook it for 20 minutes over the stove top if you do the rice freezing trick first. Enjoy!

  3. Debbie says:

    Woah awesome! I’ve been having the same problem. Thank you for your tip!!

  4. Diana says:

    I’m off to wash and freeze some rice right now! Thank you!

  5. faisane says:

    I’ve been freezing the rice for my congee ever since someone in The Kitchn’s comments section recommended it. It really works! However, I’m not sure why freezing the rice for 8 hours would be necessary – surely it can’t get more frozen than frozen?! So in my experience, there is no need to freeze it for 8 hours – for the amount of rice I’m using, about 90 minutes is plenty.

    • joellen says:

      Haha your comment made me laugh. I think you’re right. I just went with the original poster’s recommendation, but my guess is the same as yours- frozen rice is frozen rice! I’ll try 90 minutes next time and then edit my blog accordingly :). Thanks!