For a unique breakfast, try this vegetarian brown rice congee with tempeh, a healthy take on a traditional Asian breakfast.
First of all, thank you all so very much for all the incredibly kind feedback on yesterdays post on dieting and feminism. Seriously, some of your comments and emails brought me to tears! It was a post very much written from the heart – I actually stayed up till midnight writing it! I was really worried in my sleep deprived state I wouldn’t be able to make the statement I was trying to make, so I was happy to hear so many of y’all connected.
Now, on to todays post!
Growing up in Atlanta, one of my favorite weekend treats was going to Canton House on Buford Highway for dim sum. Having moved from New York City, with Chinatown and its plethora of authentic Chinese food, I was so happy to find a place that sold things other than sesame chicken and lo mein. I’d guess we went there twice a month growing up and I still go almost every time I’m back in Atlanta!
Have you ever been to dim sum? It’s kind of like Chinese tapas, but instead of ordering off a menu, small plates of food are carted around the restaurant and you simply point at what looks good to order. It’s perfect for someone like me who can’t make a decision to save her life when faced with a menu. Also, endless dumplings.
There were a few dishes we always ordered. Steamed pork buns for my brother. Rolled rice noodles for me. And always a bowl of congee to share.
Congee is a type of rice porridge served for breakfast in many Asian countries. It’s made with rice simmered until it’s broken down and soup-like, flavored with just a little bit of pork or chicken and topped with all sorts of yummy things, like green onions and fried shallots. So basic, yet so delicious. My mouth is literally watering right now.
When we went to Vietnam, I was SO excited when I found congee at our hotel breakfast buffet. Like, I flipped out to Scott and basically forced him to get a giant bowl with me. I was heartbroken when I had a bite and realized it was super bland and not at all the congee of my youth. Have you ever had a bite of your favorite hamburger from your favorite childhood restaurant, only to realize they changed the recipe? That was how heartbroken I felt. Literally, every single hotel we stayed at had the same bland congee.
Since then, I’ve been craving some congee. (P.S. Columbia friends, favorite Chinese restaurant recs? I’ve found great Korean and Vietnamese, but nothing but Panda Express-style Chinese.). So, I decided to whip some up myself.
This recipe isn’t exactly authentic because, you know, I’m white, but it’s still packed with flavor and I think, pretty close in flavor profile to the original. Don’t skip on the toppings! They pack in the flavor and make a pretty dish!
- 1 cup brown rice
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 6 cups water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 bag baby spinach, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon seasme oil
- ½ onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 8 ounces tempeh, crumbled
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- Fried Shallots:
- 3 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced into rings
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- For serving:
- Fried shallots
- Sliced green onion
- Soft or hard boiled egg
- Sesame oil
- Sesame seeds, toasted
- Red pepper flakes
- Bring brown rice, ginger, garlic and water to a boil in a large pot. Add salt. Reduce heat to maintain at a steady simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, about 1 and a half hours, until it has a thick, soup-like consistency and the rice is broken down. Add more water if it's starting to look too thick. Stir in spinach and let wilt.
- While congee is cooking, make the tempeh. Heat sesame oil in a large skillet. Add garlic and onions and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add tempeh and cook until browned and tender,about 5 minutes. When cooked through, stir in 2 tablespoons of soy sauce to season. Once soy sauce has evaporated, about 1 minute, turn off heat and set aside in a bowl until ready to use.
- To make the shallots, toss shallot rings and cornstarch together in a bowl. Heat oil on medium high heat in a small skillet. Add the shallots and fry until golden and tender, flipping halfway, about 2 minutes per side Remove immediately to paper towel lined plate.
- Serve congee garnished with tempeh, fried shallots, green onion, a drizzle of sesame oil, egg and red pepper flakes.