Congee, or porridge, is the ultimate comfort food for Asians. Growing up I had countless congee meals as breakfast, dinner, or when I was feeling ill. There are so many different types of congee that it would take days to cover them all. Congee usually involves prolonged cooking of one or a few varieties of starchy grains in plenty of water. The final consistency can vary between watery and thick, depending on the recipe and individual preference.
Asians would also make different kinds of congee based on weather and traditions. For example, in cold winter days, a rice congee with sweet potatoes would instantly warm you up. But on hot summer days, a bowl of rice or millet congee made with mung bean would cool you off quickly. The Chinese would eat the “Eight Treasure Congee” (腊八粥) on the eighth day of December of the lunar calendar. The Japanese would eat the “Seven Herb Rice Porridge” (七草粥) on January 7th. Pretty much every Asian family has a few recipes to their liking that they make regularly.
For my family, I often serve congee or porridge when I want to make a light dinner or when someone is under the weather. Although I’m from Northern China, I actually like the Cantonese-style rice congee the most, particularly the raw boiling congee (生滚粥), in which raw meat or seafood is added at the very end to the hot congee. With this style of congee, the idea is to use the rice congee’s high heat to rapidly cook the raw meat or seafood so both the freshness and the nutrition of the meat or seafood are completely retained.
Traditionally, the time-consuming part of making this Cantonese style rice congee is to get the rice congee cooked to the right consistency. The congee should be fairly thin, with the rice melting into water and the grains no longer visible. To achieve this with a stovetop method, it takes at least 1.5 hours for me to get to the consistency that I like. And I need to watch the pot closely and adjust the gap between the lid and the pot to make sure the congee is at a low rolling boil1 and not overflowing.
With Instant Pot, even though it still takes about 1 hour from start to finish, it’s easy mode. Once the Instant Pot is closed, I can start preparing other dishes, running errands, or simply take a break. I don’t need to check every 10-15 minutes to make sure the congee is not spilling over and that it’s boiling at the right temperature.
Once the rice congee base is ready, raw meat or seafood is added to the hot congee and cooked quickly. There are so many different recipes using the same congee base. In this recipe, I’m using raw shrimp. It doesn’t matter if the shrimp is fresh or previously frozen, the result is equally pleasant. Shrimp meat is super smooth and fresh and its flavor is quite noticeable in the congee.
Active Time: 10 min
Total Time: 1 hour
- 1 and 1/3 cups (310 ml) medium or short grain rice2
- 1 inch long piece of ginger
- 2 green onions (green parts only)
- ~11 cups water3
- 1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp4
- ~2 teaspoon kosher salt
- Wash the rice5. Put the 1 and 1/3 cups of rice in a large bowl and fill it 2/3 of the way to full with water and rinse three times. Use your hand to make a circular motion while rinsing. The water should be almost translucent after the 3rd rinse. A strainer also works as well.
- Fill the Instant Pot with water to the ½ level mark, which is exactly 3 quarts.
- Wash the ginger thoroughly and cut into a few slices.6 Put the ginger slices into the Instant Pot.
- Close and lock the Instant Pot. Make sure the steam valve points towards “sealing,” and not “venting.”
- Press the “Porridge” button and increase the timer to 40 minutes.7
- While waiting for the congee to cook, prepare the shrimp. Wash the shrimp and make sure they are peeled and deveined. Lightly dry the shrimp with a kitchen towel and put them in a bowl. Then add the 1 teaspoon salt to the shrimp and thoroughly mix.
- Chop the green parts of the 2 green onions into thin slices.
- When the Instant Pot is done cooking, it will switch to the “Keep Warm” mode automatically. You can use a utensil to manually switch the valve to the “Venting” position to let out the steam. (WARNING: Never use your hand to turn the valve as the steam will be hot. ALWAYS follow all safety instructions that come with your particular Instant Pot.) Optionally, if you are not pressed for time, wait 15-20 minutes until the Instant Pot naturally releases pressure. No matter the method, be sure to wait until the little floater next to the valve drops down before opening the lid.
- Uncover the lid and press the “Cancel” button. Use a wooden spatula to mix the congee so the water and the rice are well integrated. Then press the “Sauté” button.
- When bubbles start appearing in the congee, add the shrimp and immediately stir the congee and combine everything.
- When the shrimp changes color to pink, (about 30 seconds to 1 minute), press the “Cancel” button.
- Add the green onions and 1 teaspoon kosher salt (or ½ teaspoon if using table salt) and mix well.
- Low rolling boil is one notch below boil, but much higher than simmer.
- Long grain rice should not be used for making the congee base. The measurement cup is the standard US cup (250ml). It’s larger than the plastic cup that comes with your rice cooker.
- It takes approximately 11 cups of water to reach the ½ level mark (3 quarts, or 12 cups).
- The quickest way to thaw shrimp is to put the frozen shrimp in a bowl full of cold water, put the bowl in the kitchen sink, and continue to run cold water into the bowl. It should take no more than 10 minutes to thaw all the shrimp. Alternatively, you can thaw frozen shrimp by either leaving them in the refrigerator overnight or putting them in a sealed Ziploc bag and submerging the bag under cold water for about 15-20 minutes.
- The purpose of washing rice is to remove any dirt and extra starch so the rice does not become clumpy.
- I used organic ginger here, so I didn’t peel the skin.
- The default mode for porridge is only 20 minutes. So make sure you increase the timer to at least 40 minutes.