Congee, or rice porridge, likely first appeared during the Zhou Dynasty in China around 1000 BC (via Food52). The word now associated with the dish, congee, comes from the South Asian Tamil language. But there are many different words in several cultures that refer to the dish. For example, in Cantonese it’s jūk, and in Mandarin it’s zhōu, according to Post Magazine. Many people remember their mothers making congee for them when they were sick because it’s easy to digest, but it’s also traditionally served for breakfast in many places or as a light midday meal (via SBS).
When Linda Gao first moved from her home from Australia to the UK, she was led to teach herself how to make congee like her mother had when she was growing up. In SBS, she described that even today, eating congee “feels like meeting an old friend.” Gao likened the dish to reuniting with an old friend with whom it seems like no time has passed even though you haven’t seen each other for a long time.
The basic recipe is rice boiled in water, but variations abound. Rice can be boiled in cow’s milk or coconut milk. Or another grain or legume could be substituted for or mixed with the rice. It can be served plain with accompaniments, such as eggs or pickled vegetables. Or things could be added to the broth, such as broth, chicken, fish, vegetables, and herbs (via food 52).