Hearty and delicious, chicken & mushroom congee is a classic breakfast. Instead of the usual lengthy process, my recipe introduces a quick method to cook it in just 15 minutes. Vegetarian/vegan adaptation is included.
What is congee
Known as Zhou(Jook)/粥 or Xi Fan/稀饭 in Chinese, congee is a classic breakfast dish which is popular across China. Essentially, it refers to rice porridge consisting of white rice cooked in water to a semi-solid consistency. Sometimes, other starchy ingredients are also included, such as millet, mung beans, adzuki beans, sweet potato, pumpkin, etc.
In northern regions, it’s very common to eat plain congee for breakfast and multi-course dinner as a staple together with buns/Bing. Whereas in southern China, particularly in Canton/Hong Kong, congee is often made savoury with meat, vegetables, seasoning and various toppings. Today’s chicken & mushroom congee is a classic example of Cantonese congee.
How to make congee quick & easy
Freeze the raw rice
Cooking congee was a time-consuming task for me until the moment when one of my friends in China taught me a “Quick Solution”: freeze the raw rice overnight then cook as usual. It takes only about 15 minutes from start to finish to cook a pot of soft, creamy congee. Since then, I always have some rice in my freezer and I make congee even on busy mornings or whenever I feel like it.
Here is why frozen rice works wonders for congee making: After rinsing under running water, the rice grains absorb some moisture. During the freezing process, the moisture expands over time thus forcing the grains to crack (even though not visible to the naked eye). This dramatically reduces the cooking time. You might have seen congee recipes using broken rice which follows the same principle.
The cooking procedure
With frozen rice, it only takes 15 minutes to cook a pot of delicious chicken & mushroom congee. Here is the sequence and time required:
- (2 mins) Pour boiling water into a pot. Put in the frozen rice, mushroom & salt. Once it starts to boil again, turn down the heat to the lowest.
- (10 mins) Leave to simmer for 10 mins (covered). While waiting, marinate the chicken.
- (1 min) Add the marinated chicken & ginger to the rice. Cook for 1 min.
- (1 min) Turn off the heat. Leave to sit for a further 1 min.
Quick & simple, isn’t it? Transfer the congee to serving bowls then add your desired toppings (suggestions listed below).
What type of rice and pot?
Typical Chinese congee calls for white rice. My favourite is Dongbei Da Mi/东北大米, a type of rice from the northeast region of China, of which the kernels are very small and oval-shaped. Japanese rice and Thai jasmine rice also create a great result. Basmati rice is not suitable for making this congee.
This recipe works very well using a regular pot (no rice cooker, instant pot needed). If available, deep clay pots or cast iron casseroles are preferable for their superior heat-retaining performance.
What is the idea rice-water ratio
The other day I saw a post on Facebook saying: “Asians don’t measure while cooking. We just sprinkle on seasoning until the spirits of our ancestors come to us and say: That’s good enough.” It’s funny but so true. As a home cook, I seldom measure anything (apart from baking). But as a blogger, I always test my recipes with precise measurement to ensure the best possible result for you. This congee is no exception. My recommended rice-water ratio is 1: 6 by volume. That is to say, for every cup of rice, you would use 5 cups of water.
However, please be aware that there are two factors that might encourage you to alter it a little.
- If you prefer a more watery texture for congee, add another part of water.
- The performance of your cooker might affect how fast the water evaporates. Adjust accordingly.
How to make the chicken tender & tasty
Nothing is worst than having tough, chewy, plain flavoured meat in a bowl of fresh congee. How to make the chicken a nice accompaniment to the dish (instead of letting it ruin the taste)? Here are my tips:
- Cut the chicken into narrow strips or thin slices. Make sure you slice against the grain of the meat. This will ensure the maximum tenderness.
- Marinate the chicken before cooking. A combination of soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil & white pepper adds great flavours. Shaoxing rice wine helps to eliminate the gamey taste. Cornstarch is used to tenderise the meat.
- Do not overcook the chicken. Add the chicken (along with minced ginger) into the congee at the very end of the cooking process. After one minute turn off the heat, then leave to sit for a further 1 minute. Prolonged cooking is not necessary and may result in a tough texture.
You may use other meat to replace chicken, such as pork, beef, turkey or fish fillet. Follow the same instruction: thinly cut, marinate & cook briefly.
What to eat with the congee
Now, a pot of chicken & mushroom congee is made in just 15 minutes. Stir in finely chopped scallions and it’s ready to be tucked in. How about adding some handy toppings to make it even tastier? When shooting this recipe, I add two toppings for extra nutrients, flavour and texture:
- Half of a hard-boiled egg for each bowl (cooked in another pot while making the congee)
- Some crushed, toasted peanuts that I always have in my pantry (for my beloved Dan Dan noodles & Chongqing Xiao Mian).
I have other topping ideas too:
- Preserved mustard (Zha Cai/榨菜);
- Sliced Chinese doughnut sticks (You Tiao/油条);
- Chinese olive vegetable (Gan Lan Cai/橄榄菜);
- Dried papery shrimp (Xia Pi/虾皮)
- Salted egg yolk (咸鸭蛋)
How to make it vegetarian
My recipe shows you the basics of congee making. Please feel free to make alterations to suit your personal taste. For instance, you can twist this recipe to make it vegetarian or vegan. Here are some ideas:
- Replace the chicken with five-spice tofu or smoked tofu
- Make it a mushroom congee using a variety of mushrooms, such as king oyster, enoki, wood ear, etc.
- Use vegetable stock instead of water to boost the flavour
- Add crunchy vegetables, eg. sliced iceberg lettuce, grated carrot, etc.
How to make ahead/ reheat?
If you wish to make ahead of time and eat it later on, I suggest you increase the rice water ratio to 1:7 by volume as the rice expands over time. If the consistency seems perfect right after cooking, it will become too thick/solid when it cools down. Add some hot water when reheating if the leftover congee appears to be dense. Stir constantly to avoid burning at the bottom.
That said, I strongly recommend you enjoy the congee right after cooking when the natural fragrance of the rice is at its peak. Unlike some dishes where the flavour intensifies after resting, the taste of rice tends to go bland over time. That is why I am also against the idea of making congee using cooked rice.
Other classic breakfast dishes
I have a collection of breakfast recipes that are typically consumed in China. They would be great dishes to enjoy with this chicken & mushroom congee. Check them out if you’re interested:
Easy congee with chicken & mushroom (香菇鸡肉粥)
For the rice
- 1 cup short-grain, or jasmine rice (uncooked) - about 210g, see note 1
- 6 cups boiling water - about 1½ litre
- 4 dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated & thinly sliced
- ½ teaspoon salt
For the chicken
- 1 piece chicken breast, cut into narrow strips/thin slices - about 150g/5.3oz
- 1 teaspoon light soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon oyster sauce
- ½ teaspoon Shaoxing rice wine
- ½ teaspoon cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 pinch ground white pepper
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 pinch sugar
You also need
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- 2 stalks scallions, finely chopped
- 2 boiled eggs - optional
- 4 tablespoon toasted peanuts, crushed - optional, see note 2
Freeze the rice
- The night before you cook the congee, rinse the rice under running water. Drain then put into a container/plastic bag. Freeze overnight.
- Soak dried shiitake mushrooms in water overnight.
Cook the rice
- Pour boiling water into a pot. Put in the frozen rice. Add salt, mushroom and the water in which the mushrooms were soaked (it's full of umami flavour).
- Once it starts to boil again, turn down the heat to the lowest.
- Cover with a lid and leave to simmer for 10 mins.
Marinate the chicken
- While waiting for the rice to cook. Marinate the chicken with all the ingredients listed.
Cook the chicken
- Stir in the chicken strips and ginger. Cook for 1 min then turn off the heat.
- Leave to sit (covered) for a further 1 min.
Assemble the dish
- Add the scallions to the congee. Stir well then transfer into the serving bowls.
- Optional garnish: Top each bowl with half of a hard boiled egg and some toasted peanuts. Serve warm.
- What type of rice? Typical Chinese congee calls for white rice, usually the medium or short grain variety. Chinese rice, Japanese rice and Thai jasmine rice all work well. Basmati rice is not suitable for making this congee.
- How to toast peanuts? Over low heat, toast skinless peanuts in a frying pan until they lightly brown. Transfer to a plate immediately to cool down.
NUTRITION DISCLOSURE: Nutritional information on this website is provided as a courtesy to readers. It should be considered estimates. Please use your own brand nutritional values or your preferred nutrition calculator to double check against our estimates.
Bob Droppa says
Excellent recipe and variations. Asian grocery stores have flavored powders.
Bob Richmond says
This is the first recipe for jook I ever found that made sense, so I hastened to try it, and my wife and I were extremely pleased with the results. We’re both in our early 80s, with no east Asian background at all, but I’ve been cooking Chinese for years.
I used what I had in the pantry – when I get to my Chinese grocery store again I’ll try to find some of that 东北大米 rice you recommended. (No, I can’t read Chinese, but I can copy and paste hànzì with the best of them.)
I froze some sushi rice that had been on the shelf for too long, and hydrated some dried shiitake mushrooms. I found I had to cook the rice about 15 minutes to get it to the right consistency (though I live near sea level), and I found it necessary to stir the rice a lot to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
I prepared the chicken the way you do it, coating it with cornstarch (I learned that from you), using one tablespoon each of light soy sauce, oyster sauce, and salt-denatured shao xing rice wine.
The toppings were a little more improvised. I don’t eat eggs. I didn’t have Chinese pickled cabbage, so I used kimchi. I tried all-peanut crunchy peanut butter, and that worked fine. Next time I’ll try those little dried shrimp, and some Chinese sausage (which I’ve eaten with jook at restaurant)s. My Chinese grocer is going to have to help me with that “olive vegetable” 橄榄菜, but they’re used to having me walk in with a computer printout telling them what I want.
Let’s call 粥 jook in English. “Congee” or “conjee” is a Tamil (south Indian) word for what seems originally to have been a different rice preparation.
I’ll be fixing jook frequently now. Thank you!
Wei Guo says
Great to hear your feedback and to learn how you improvise with what you have at hand. Glad you enjoyed it!
Thank you, thank you, thank you! The congee was delicious! I’ve never made it before because of the time commitment the standard recipe requires. I’ll be making this every week now.
Wei Guo says
How wonderful to hear that!
Hi how do you know that chicken is cooked thoroughly? Only 1 min of cooking. I don’t want to give myself food poisoning as undercooked chicken is notorious for that.
Wei Guo says
I understand your worry if you haven’t given it a try yet. The chicken is cut into thin slices or narrow strips so it doesn’t need much time to cook through. When you add it, the congee is boiling hot. Also as I mentioned in the recipe, after 1 minute of cooking, you’re supposed to leave it to sit for one more minute. Cooking continues during this time.
This method ensures the optimal tender texture of the meat. That said, if you don’t mind overcooked chicken, prolong the time as you wish. Hope this helps.
Wayne Trattles says
This is a great recipe. It took a couple of times for me to get it right for me: I’m might have been stretching the “don’t measure” thing a little too far. The first time I tried congee was almost 20 years ago in Hong Kong, and they must make it a little thicker than in other places in China. So I reduce the amount of water slightly and I noticed that the corn flour on the meat will also help thicken at the end. Looking forward to trying more of your recipes.
Wei Guo says
Glad you’ve enjoyed it!
Sue R says
This was wonderful! I’ve saved it in Pinterest.
Anabelle Baesa says
Great simple way to cook congee. Thanks for the frozen rice tip. And the suggestion not to used cooked rice. Now I can replicate my favorite congee from Chinese restaurants.
Wei Guo says
Glad you find my recipe helpful!
I used to get this and fresh Char Siu from my friends grandmother when we’d visit her in the summer as a teen! I’m planning on making this today (I pre-marinated my chicken last night)
Question, when you say add boiling water, is it because water is reduced when boiling (the 5 cups) so I need to add it pre-boiled-measured compared to slowly boiling the 5cups in the pan itself? I’m not sure if I make sense, please let me know; thanks!
Wei Guo says
Hi Inko! I said “add boiling water” simply because I use a kettle to boil water then pour it into the pot. You can simply bring 5 cups of water to a full boil in the pot (with lid on) then add the rice . Happy cooking!
Thank you! I used my kettle too before your reply as I was just guessing; glad it was correct! I didn’t know if it mattered or not. Stove is electric so either way was easy! 😀
Fantastic recipe, I marinated the chicken overnight and added a bit more chicken to use as a lunch for the kids. They definitely enjoyed it too!
This is an amazing recipe! I’ve been making it every week for the past month or so, and it never fails to hit the spot. Thank you so much for sharing your recipes. I really appreciate the time and detail that go into the instructions, as well. Chinese cooking is very intimidating. You make it accessible. Thank you!!
Wei Guo says
So happy to hear this Jen! Enjoy your congee routine!
Hi Wei, Can I cook this Jook using an Instant Pot?
Wei Guo says
Yes you can! I think you’d need 8-10 mins on high pressure (freeze the rice in advance as instructed). Afterwards, release the pressure naturally (do not use fast release as the congee might block the valve). Uncover and add chicken, etc. Use saute function to cook for 1 min. Hope this helps.