The Chinese chicken noodle soup

David had a bit of a stomach bug the other day, so I made congee (or jook in Cantonese), the Chinese equivalent of chicken noodle soup for these situations.

The reason that congee is good when feeling ill  is because it can be easily ingested (no chewing required) and it’s simplicity in flavours makes it easy on the stomach.  The basic congee is made with chicken stock that is cooked for hours with rice.  It is commonly flavoured with ginger and green onion and any kind of protein (fish, pork, chicken, beef, preserved egg) can be added, making it into a hearty meal.

Congee is true Chinese comfort food that can be eaten whether sick or not and for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  It can be eaten on its own or with crispy chow mein or a side of Chinese donut and in our case, with a side of kimchi dumplings.  It can also be eaten when you need a break from the heavy steaks, burgers and fries and pastas.

What is your favourite comfort food?

Recipe (adapted from epicurious):

  • 3 1/2 to 4-lb chicken, cut into serving pieces, including back and giblets (exclude liver)
  • 10 cups water
  • 3 tbsp Chinese rice wine or medium-dry sherry
  • 3 (1/4-inch-thick) slices fresh ginger
  • 3 scallions, halved crosswise and smashed with flat side of a heavy knife
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup long-grain rice

Accompaniment: fine julliene of fresh ginger, thinly sliced scallions, and Asian sesame oil

  1. Bring chicken and water to a boil in a 5-quart heavy pot, skimming froth.
  2. Add wine, ginger, scallions and salt and cook at a bare simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes, or until breast meat is just cooked through.
  3. Transfer 1 breast half with tongs to a bowl and continue to cook stock at a bare simmer, skimming froth as necessary, 2 hours and 40 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, cool chicken breast long enough to remove skin and bones, returning skin and bones to stock.
  5. Cool breast meat completely and tear into shreds.  Chill shreds, covered, and bring to room temperature before serving.
  6. Pour stock through a large sieve into a large bowl and discard solids.  (you should have about 8 cups: if less, add water; if more, cook longer after adding rice.)
  7. Return stock to cleaned pot and add rice.
  8. Bring to a boil and stir.
  9. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered until consistency of oatmeal, about 1 3/4 hours, stirring frequently during last 1/2 hour of cooking.  (Congee will continue to thicken as it stands. thin with water if necessary.)
  10. Season congee with salt.
  11. Serve topped with chicken and accompaniments.

Cooks’ note:  Stock can be made 1 day ahead.  Cool uncovered, before chilling, covered.  Discard solidified fat.

Notes and Tips:
While preparing the stock, I soaked the rice in water for ~2h to soften it up.  I used 2 bone-in thighs and 3 boneless thighs (what was in my fridge) to make the stock instead of using a whole chicken.  I only cooked the stock for 1h 30min instead of 3h and I didn’t pour the stock through a sieve before adding rice and 4 more cups of water.  I removed the skin 1h after adding the rice because it looked quite oily.  At the end, I seasoned with 1.5 tsp more salt and omitted the sesame oil.
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12 thoughts on “The Chinese chicken noodle soup

  1. Pingback: Healthy and tasty | trials in food

  2. My mom used to not let us eat anything fried and if we did, we need to eat a bowl of congee with it (e.g. we get 3 pieces of chip for every bowl we ate) so that left a negative impression of congee on me and I never crave it. But whenever I do eat it, I do enjoy it a lot. I find cooking the rice in plain water with a little sugar and only adding the stock shortly before serving reallys cuts the cooking time down. First, this way I can cook the rice at the same time the stock is being prepared and second, the little bit of sugar “softens” the rice quicker, shortening the cooking time and eliminates the need to presoak.

  3. Pingback: Congee in a jiffy. « trials in food

  4. Pingback: My two cents with a side of kale salad « trials in food

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