Eat the Weeds, Elemental Eating

Congee: Healing Rice Porridge

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These days, digestion has become a big topic of conversation. Whether its getting “regular”, what fermented foods to eat or what strain of probiotics are the best, people are talking about their guts and how to get them healthy. Something the Chinese figured out more than 2,000 years ago, is a delicious, digestive-harmonizing dish of rice porridge, called Congee or Jook.

Traditionally, congee is eaten for breakfast and is part of a typical “qing dan” diet that consists of eating simple foods, ”mostly grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits…” According to Bob Flaws, “qing” means clear or pure and light. “Dan” means bland. The foods that support this kind of diet is believed to be be the foundation of good health and long life in Chinese medicine.

Let us not forget that these “simple”  foods we talk about are actually the diet of “peasant” people living in temperate regions throughout the world. I use the word peasant not to denote a subjective sense of being financially “poor,” but to bring awareness to its Latin roots, pāgus which has historical been used to describe peoples and communities living closely with the Earth and who are aware of the intricate relationships binding all life.


Its no accident that living in rural environments is more simple or rather, less complicated and distracting than metropolitan life. And here, like in any place, the food people eat reflects that way of life — in this instance subsisting on mostly grains, vegetables, beans and fruits.

Contrary to the typical American “grand slam” breakfast, full of refined wheat, sugar, caffeine, and animal protein, congee offers the nourishment of those highly dense breakfast foods, without creating excess, resulting in inflammation and mucus, which slows down our system.


The Chinese are known for adding herbs into congee as a way of “eating your medicine.” A wide spectrum of common ailments are treated with herbs and vegetables cooked in with the congee. A simple bowl of congee is a great way to give our digestion a break which further promotes healing in the body. A good source for what specific plants to use is The Book of Jook by Bob Flaws or Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford.

Enjoying a warm bowl of congee for breakfast has become my go-to. It keeps really well and if I make a batch the evening before, its ready to go in the morning. Using a crock pot will be helpful for those with limited time.


{ Hot Pot of Congee} 

1 cup rice

6-8 cups water

Add rice and water to a medium pot, bring to a boil, then reduce to low (the lowest your stove can go) for at least 2 hours. If time permits, consider cooking for 2-6 hours, since the longer the congee cooks, the more medicinal it becomes.

>>Recipe for 1 batch / 2-3 meals of congee<<

For a savory congee, I love adding a small handful of grated carrots, a little ghee or coconut oil, tamari,  a sprinkle of sesame seeds and toasted nori strips on top.

If sweet is more your style, try adding in coconut milk, a couple chopped dates or raisins, cardamom and a drizzle of honey. 

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    • Summer Ashley
      Summer Ashley says

      Yes, I have definitely seen recipes using brown. I usually go for the white because it is much easier for me to digest.

  1. I made this last night. Thank you for posting it. Ate it savory, just as you suggested, and it was absolutely delicious!

    • Summer Ashley
      Sarah Kate says

      Yes! I use them as little toppers for the congee. The books references are great to look at if you have questions about what veggies or herbs to use for specific issues 🙂

  2. Digestibility would be improved and mineral content enhanced if the Brown Rice was first soaked for about 12 hours in order to neutralise the Phytates which otherwise would ROB many nutrients from the rice as well as from the digestive tract!

  3. Rosemary says

    Is there a recommendation for a particular kind of rice? Long grain, basmati, short grain, arborio? Does is make any difference?


    • Summer Ashley
      Summer Ashley says

      Rosemary, traditionally white is used but any of those will work well too! It just needs to reach a porridge like consistency. We hope you enjoy it!

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  6. Chinese and Japanese foods are truly natural and healthy. I hope you can post more foods which are rich in probiotics.

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  9. Terry says

    Can anyone tell me the science behind long cooked congee or jook that turns the rice into resistant starch and thereby greatly reduces the caloric aspect of it? I would love to know how/why that happens.

    Thanks for ideas for seasonings. Great recipe!

    • Sarah Kate

      Hi Terry! I’m not sure that about the congee having a reduced caloric aspect. My understanding is that it still is highly nourishing to the body but has been cooked to be easily digested. This allows the digestive system to rest, while still getting nutrients. Wish I knew more of the ‘science’ behind it. Hope that’s helpful! – Sarah Kate

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