Porridge vs Congee – What’s the Difference?
One question we hear often around Breakfast Cure boils down to, “Porridge vs Congee – What’s the difference?”
Porridge is defined by the Cambridge dictionary as “a thick, soft food made from oats boiled in milk or water, eaten hot for breakfast.” Generally more oat-based in much of the UK, many other grains are used to make porridge, such as wheat kernels, buckwheat or kasha, barley, farro, etc., Porridge may be cooked with less water and eaten with a bit more body or relatively thick. Enjoyed at breakfast, porridge is mostly a morning meal.
Across Asia, rice porridge has many names. Some examples are congee or jook in China, juk in Korea, okayu in Japan. Other names include kanji and kithcari in India and cháo in Vietnam. White rice is the most common base though other grains can be used. Congee is also referred to as soup or broth when cooked with plenty of water. Much of the excess fluid evaporates during longer cooking, and grains often break down enough to be indistinguishable. Enjoy variations of congee morning, noon, and night.
Porridge vs Congee – What’s the Difference?
Hailed for its health benefits, the oat is lauded as the ideal breakfast food for the health-conscious among us. There are loads of articles by doctors, scientists, and elite athletes about the wide range of health and performance-enhancing nutrients contained in oat groats. Here is a great example from LiveStrong.
Congee, jook, and other rice porridge recipes from the past several thousand years draw on the same understanding as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and other east and southeast Asian medical traditions. In this framework, warm foods cooked with plenty of water improve digestion and are soothing and healing for all the digestive organs.
Moist vs Dry, or Hydrating vs Dehydrating
Congee is soft and easy to digest. People with digestive challenges and other chronic conditions benefit from the warm fluid filled with nutrients that are easy to absorb. With nothing hard, tough or difficult to digest, food of this type moves gently through the digestive tract, moistening and soothing the tissue as it passes through.
Fiber is an essential part of a good diet and critical for good elimination. It is only when cooked with plenty of water that this fiber becomes soft, plump, and passes easily through the intestines. Constipation often improves with foods prepared with ample water.
Sweet or Savory? Yes, Please!
There are infinite recipes for congee and porridge. More porridge is probably sweet and congee is more often savory, but there are plenty of traditional exceptions in both cases!
The temperature of food is also important. Quick and on-the-go meals are growing in popularity. Chinese medicine teaches that warm food stokes the “fire” that fuels digestion, easing and improving the absorption of nutrients from the foods we eat.
Oats, in their glorious whole-groat traditional porridge form, combined with rice, the source of Qi energy in congee, cooked together with plenty of water, make a delicious, soothing breakfast that feels like a hug.
Breakfast Cure is congee-inspired and born in a porridge culture. Our recipes take advantage of the myriad health benefits and flavor sensations of porridges and congees from around the world. These two main breakfast bowl traditions are healthy in similar ways yet each has unique benefits to bestow. An array of ingredients leads to a variety of nutrients. Whole grains offer the highest fiber and nutrient content. Whole-grain fiber becomes completely soft before eating when cooked with six or more times the volume of water.
Breakfast Cure is proud to carry on a tradition, connecting us to our ancestors and people across time and cultures.
Here are a few cooks that inspire us today.
Why We Eat Congee
Thank you to Lucas Sin for sharing your recipe and your wisdom about congee in this video, Why We Eat Congee:
Here is the YouTube introduction:
“Lucas Sin, chef of Nice Day Chinese and Junzi Kitchen, demonstrates how to make and unpacks the history behind congee, a Chinese rice porridge that has been eaten for centuries. Congee is a humble dish often eaten for breakfast, by children, or when ill; the porridge’s thick, velvety texture and abundance of nutrients has made it a staple not only in China but around the world, through slightly different preparations. Lucas explores shatin chicken congee, a comforting dish made with galangal-spiced poached chicken, century egg, dried scallops, and a mixture of two kinds of rice. Check out the recipe here.
Creativity and Local Ingredients
Another great resource we love offers advice for finding what you need at your neighborhood market. One challenge for any great chef is to find local ingredients that make good substitutes for the traditional variety when unavailable. TabiEats shared this wonderful video about a traditional, healthy rice porridge called Nanakusa Gayu eaten the day after a big New Year’s feast as a gentle cleanse.
Finding our roots
Going back to the ancestral traditions of our founder, we offer this Ukrainian porridge called Kutia. You’ll find the full recipe in the YouTube notes. If you want to go gluten-free with it, we suggest substituting whole gluten-free oat groats for wheat kernels.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our exploration of porridge vs congee – what’s the difference? Do you have a recipe, story, or family tradition of any variation of porridge that you’d like to share? We’d love to continue this conversation, so please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
Learn more about how Breakfast Cure is congee-inspired.