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All About Congee

How I discovered the miracle of congee

Good Morning. I’m Karen Taylor, founder of Breakfast Cure. Today I want to talk about congee. Congee is a traditional rice porridge that’s been eaten widely across Asia for thousands of years. I started eating congee about 25 years ago when I was in Chinese medical school, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. My teachers introduced me to the importance of this medicinal porridge known as congee or jook.

The concept is to cook grains with plenty of water, until the grains become indistinguishable from the water, making them easier to digest and absorb. What ignited the fire in me, was trying it, and feeling how different my digestion felt. I noticed that my stomach didn’t hurt at all. There was no pain, no cramping, no bloating. In fact, I felt this warm, soothing, comforting, nourishing feeling that grew the more days in a row that I ate it.

I grew up in LA in the ’70s. Both my parents worked full-time, but we sat down together every evening for family dinners, which strayed far from the standard American fare on a daily basis. My mom cooked delicious Mexican food once a week and my step-dad made incredible Chinese feasts. He’d been studying with Madame Wong, author of Madame Wong’s Longlife Chinese Cookbook, who offered classes through UCLA extension at the time. I’m left now with only the notes he took and the recipes he cherished for the rest of his life.

Why had it taken so long for me to learn about congee when it felt so miraculous? How had I eaten cold cereal for breakfast all those years?  All the people I knew and what they ate for breakfast filled my mind, and I needed to find out more about this rice porridge, introduced to me as congee.

Breakfast Cure is the result of my deep dive into the world of congee, years of making traditional recipes whenever I could get my hands on one and find the ingredients. Then, slowly, my own recipes began to evolve. I cooked thousands of batches, creating flavors based on porridge from around the world. My interest continues to be in the medicinal healing properties of the basic, traditional Asian recipe.

The magic is in the soothing nature of this simple meal. With the lens of Chinese medicine, we can see how and why warm cooked foods heal digestion and deliver nutrients even when digestion is far from optimal.

I’ve enjoyed a love affair with slow-cooked breakfast ever since I was first introduced to it, trying all kinds of combinations to find my favorites that are tasty and healthy, some based on tradition and some my own creations. My dream is that Breakfast Cure will not only help others find and embrace the wisdom of warm cooked food but also experience the ease overnight cooking can bring to their mornings.

 

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