I was asked the other day whether congee was still a therapeutic food for the spring time. The answer is, yes! Congee is generally a great nourishing food for the spleen-stomach system, which is central to our overall health. Because its flavors are not too rich, spicy or extreme in any sense, it can be consumed year-round as part of a healthy nutrition plan.
The fun part is changing up the additions to your plain congee in order to support the organs and energy of the season. Generally in wintertime, foods are more rich, heavy and warming (like meats, stews, breads, sweets, and all things covered in butter, sauces, and the like). Spring, reflecting the changes in nature, calls forth the need for lighter, vibrant, and fresh flavors. When one changes their diet to reflect the season, the body attunes to where it should be for optimum health. For example, energy is built and consolidated in winter, whereas growth and momentum dominate spring.
How to make plain congee
Plain congee is simply rice and water, cooked over an extended time, where the starch breaks down and the soup becomes homogeneous. Congee can be thick or thin, depending on one’s preference. I think the easiest way to make congee is in the Crockpot, but it can easily be made on the stove-top in a couple of hours. The deliciousness of congee comes from the toppings and condiments you put on it afterwards.
- 1 cup white rice of choice (avoid sushi rice and instant rice)
- 8 cups water (Start with 8, you can always thin out the soup if it gets too thick)
- pinch of sea salt
Put rice, water and pinch sea salt in at least a 4-quart saucepan. Turn heat on high until mixture boils, then reduce to medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Cook until the mixture becomes the consistency of porridge, about 1.5 hours. Alternatively, use the Crockpot (see instructions on your model since they are vary). Once cooked, congee can be consumed right away or stored in the fridge to be enjoyed over the next few days. When reheating, you may need to add a little water or stock to bring it back to the right consistency.
Topping choices that are always amazing include:
- soy sauce, tamari, or Braggs liquid aminos
- coconut aminos
- a light drizzle of toasted sesame oil
- soft boiled egg
Delicious toppings for Spring
- shredded chicken – as opposed to pork or beef, which are heavier in quality
- scallions or spring onions, freshly chopped and sprinkled on top
- sprouted mung beans, such as trūRoots brand, which can be simply boiled for 5 minutes then put on congee
- pickled veggies chopped finely like beets, radishes, carrots
- radishes, pea shoots, microgreens, asparagus, or any other spring vegetable you find that has just popped up in your local area (within 200 miles). Feels free to add these lightly steamed, blanched, or raw (if you don’t have a tendency toward loose stools or bloating).
- fresh herbs like minced cilantro or chives
Spring inclusions are chosen based on their energetic qualities, color and flavor. Spring is ruled by the Liver organ system. The Liver resonates with the flavor sour, which strengthens it, and pungent, which disperses it. The color green and the direction of outward growth are associated with the organ as well. Therefore, sprouts, which are green and the first signs of growth, are great foods this time of year. The sour flavor is easy to understand with pickled vegetables. Radishes and cilantro have the pungent quality in common, helping to gently course and cleanse the liver.
If you want more to read on the this time of year and how to support your health, please read the following past blog posts: