When railroad workers came to California, in the mid-1860s, they would have eaten it in their camps. In China, it was consumed in times of famine and is still served during festivals and religious ceremonies. It is also given to infants and to those who are ill.
For research and realistic writing, I had to try it!
At its essence, congee is a small amount of grain cooked low and slow with a lot of water.
1/2 cup rice – thoroughly rinsed
6 cups water
Cook low on a stovetop or in a crockpot for approximately 6 hours, stirring occasionally.
I started out skeptical. I could not imagine how a half cup of rice could thicken six cups of water! Every time I stirred it, I shook my head because it looked like nothing had changed. Then toward the end – voila!
What Happens During the Cooking Process
The grains burst, releasing starch. What results is a lovely soft textured, thickened mush or soup.
What You Add Determines the Flavor
Congee is like a blank art canvas waiting for colorful paint.
Common Chinese Additions; tripe, intestine, crab, fish, bamboo shoots, pickled tofu, hundred-year-old eggs, lettuce, and/or soy sauce.
Other grain options; cornmeal, millet, barley, brown rice and sorghum
For additional variations, see Soothing Savory Porridge
You Might Also Try;