Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

October 24, 2021

© Eric Wolfinger

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Chicken rice porridge

This is the breakfast of champions, Vietnamese style! Cháo, called congee in English, jook in Cantonese, zhou in Mandarin, and kanji in Tamil is one of the simplest recipes in the Asian repertoire. The basic version is made with white rice and water, but other versions call for red, brown or starchy shortgrain rice. Some have meat and fish cooked in them; others are garnished at the table. The amount of time you simmer the rice in the water — from 20 minutes to 2 hours — determines the final texture of your porridge.

1 (3-lb./ 1.5 kg) whole chicken
6 whole scallions
thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, crushed
1 tbsp. (15 ml) salt, plus more to taste
1 c. (250 ml) jasmine rice
12 c. (3 L) store-bought or homemade chicken stock
1 (2- x 1-inch/5- x 2.5-cm) piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch- (0.5-cm-) thick coins
freshly ground black pepper

For the garnishes

finely chopped scallions, white and light green parts only
finely chopped fresh cilantro
coarsely chopped roasted peanuts
fried shallots

Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Add the chicken, scallions, ginger and salt, and boil for 15 minutes, then turn off the heat, cover the pot, and let stand for 15 minutes. If your chicken is larger, let stand 10 minutes more.

Just before the chicken is ready, prepare a large ice-water bath. When the chicken is done, remove it from the pot and immediately submerge it in the ice-water, which will stop the cooking and give the meat a firmer texture. Let stand 20 minutes until the chicken is cool enough to handle, then remove from the water and pat dry. Pull the meat from the bones, discarding the bones and skin. Shred the meat with your fingers; you should have about 4 cups (1 L). Reserve 2 cups (500 ml) of the chicken cooking water and strain through a fine-mesh strainer; discard the rest. Set aside. (This can be done a day ahead.)

While the chicken is cooking, prepare the rice. Place the rice in a fine-mesh sieve and rinse well under cold water. In a large pot, combine the rice, stock, ginger and 2 cups (500 ml) of reserved chicken water. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, then cook, uncovered, for 1 hour. The rice will have broken down and the mixture will have a porridge-like consistency. Season to taste with salt.

Put the garnishes in separate small bowls. Ladle the porridge into warmed bowls, top each with an equal amount of chicken and a pinch of pepper. Pass the garnishes at the table. Serves 6.

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