Kitchn Love Letters

I Tried Samin Nosrat’s Breakfast Congee, and I Wanted to Climb into the Bowl

published May 26, 2022
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Credit: Renae Wilson

I absolutely love a warm bowl of something porridge-y. Even in the summer months, congee is at the top of that list. While friends have served it to me on many occasions, I’ve never made it myself because I thought it was one of those recipes that requires you to stay by the stovetop for hours and stir continuously. But when I caught a glimpse of Samin Nosrat’s version of congee and saw that it was more “set it and forget it”, I was eager to try — especially because I had just shopped for really fun food toppings from my local Asian grocer. 

How to Make Samin’s Breakfast Congee

Samin gives really loose instructions on how to make the congee, but really, that’s all you need. Bring a cup of short-grain rice and 8 cups chicken stock and/or water to a boil. Add in some aromatics and seasonings (Samin calls for some fresh sliced ginger, a splash of fish sauce, garlic cloves, and a little salt). Bring that down to simmer on your stovetop for three hours.

I chose to toast my rice before adding the stock. I also chopped up the ginger and garlic very fine, as I didn’t want to have to fish them out later or bite into larger pieces of ginger. I used the full amount of chicken stock listed in the recipe, and stirred the congee every once in a while. (I am glad I did; the longer the congee cooked, the more rice got stuck on the inside corners of my pot.) It took about 2 1/2 hours for my congee to cook. If you decide to use leftover cooked rice, you can use a blender or immersion blender to have a bowl of rice porridge in a half-hour!

Credit: Renae Wilson

What I Thought of Samin’s Breakfast Congee

Winner, winner, winner! As I knew it would be. This made about two quarts of congee, perfectly batched and porridge-y. Choosing the toppings is absolutely my favorite part of congee. Samin recommends a few toppings like a poached egg for breakfast, and some chopped toasted peanuts and cilantro for lunch. Little crunchy and spicy things pack so much flair and flavor into your bowl. This is why I love her addition of chili garlic onion crisps.

For breakfast, I topped my bowl with sliced scallions, onion jam, a soft-boiled egg yolk, some crispies, pork floss, and garlic crisps. I gave an additional drizzle of fish sauce and some sesame oil.  For dinner the following evening, I added chopped peanuts, cilantro, spicy sambal, minced onion, black garlic, and black sesame seeds. The toppings are infinite. To bulk up your bowl, add some shredded rotisserie chicken, canned or hot smoked salmon, or ground pork. No matter the route you take, you’ll be left feeling full, cozy, and grateful. 

If You’re Making Samin’s Breakfast Congee, a Few Tips

  1.  Toast your rice:  If you are using uncooked rice, toast your dry rice in the hot saucepan before adding the liquid. The recipe doesn’t call for toasty rice but I like this step because it adds a little depth and warmth to the flavor of the porridge.
  2. Keep an eye on your congee: Depending on your stove and your simmer, your congee may not take 3 hours. If you’re using cooked rice, it certainly won’t take that long. So keep an eye as it cooks, stirring pretty regularly until the rice is the thickness and consistency you want. You’ll also need to do this so that the bottom doesn’t scorch. 
  3. Add more liquid when reheating and serving: As the congee thickens, the liquid cooks out.  Keep an eye on this as you cook, adding more if necessary. I also like to add more liquid into my bowl when I serve myself, as the rice soaks up the stock the longer it sits. Also add more liquid when reheating to loosen the congee.