This is not an authentic congee, which is a creamy rice “porridge” made from a combination of white rice and glutinous rice. Short grain brown rice is used in this variation. Short grain brown rice yields starch when cooked, so it is quite a good substitute, and one is getting superior nutrition as compensation.

There is protein here–I made this with ham hocks, but any protein source will work. If using raw meat, you can cook it along with the rice; stew-type meats can cook the entire time while quicker cooking meats and cooked meats can go in towards the end. Ditto with vegetarian sources of protein–add them at whatever junction is best, your call. I’m going to use my ham hock version; just adjust if you are going with something else.

The vegetable add-ins are almost limitless, vegetables from every season can be used. Again, as with the protein, add them so they become tender, or to your preferences.

2 – 3 T vegetable oil
1 – 2 ham hocks
1 c chopped (red) onion
2 T minced garlic
2 T peeled, minced ginger
1 fresh chile, stemmed, (seeded) and chopped, or 1/2 t dried red pepper flakes
1 c short grain brown rice
10 cups liquid, preferably a combination of broth and water, or all broth, or all water
3 – 4 c chopped or shredded cabbage
2 c finely chopped or sliced carrots
2 T soy sauce
1 T dark sesame oil
pepper, to taste
fresh cilantro or parsley or other herb, for garnish, optional (seasonal)

1. In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Brown hocks and cook, turning, until they begin to release their fat. Move to one side and add onions. Turn heat down some and sauté onions for about five minutes, moving and mixing them with the hocks. Add garlic, ginger, and chile, and cook until fragrant, a minute or so.

2. Add the rice, stirring to mix with the ingredients in the pot. Add the liquid, raise heat and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to a good simmer, and cook for three hours, even longer, if necessary, to really break down the rice, stirring now and then. You can also do this in a slow cooker, set on low for 8 – 10 hours or longer.

3. Take the meat out of the pot and let cool. Add cabbage, carrots, soy sauce, dark sesame oil, and pepper. Remove meat from bones and add back to the pot. Cook until the vegetables are done to your preference. Serve, with fresh, chopped herb for garnish, in season (or not).