In the West we like to eat oatmeal for breakfast. In the East, they prefer to eat rice porridge, also known as rice congee or congee. This recipe is inspired by my many days in Asia and is my version of Chinese rice porridge congee using red rice.
This warm breakfast bowl is a fantastic way to start the day in the cooler months, but it can also be a great energy boost in the summer, especially if you are in an air-conditioned room. It is also a good alternative to the sweet breakfast bowl options as it is usually topped with savory, even spicy, items
I decided to use red rice instead of the usual long-grain white rice because it is far more nutritious, and if you read below you will be convinced too.
But if you want to stick to the traditional version, feel free to use white rice, or whichever rice you have at home, just bear in mind that the consistency of the porridge and how goey and creamy it is will depend on the type of rice used.
About red rice and its origins
You might be surprised to know that there are over 40,000 different kinds of rice cultivated across the world, and more than 120,000 samples of rice cultivars are stored in the International Rice Gene Bank in the Philippines.
On a trip to Chennai, in the south of India, I spent some time in a local market area where rice wholesalers had their offices and was mesmerised at the huge range of rice varieties on offer. Seeing them stacked next to each other on a long tabletop was eye-opening.
The majority of the rice we eat and find in supermarkets across the world grows in Asia. In fact, 90% of the world’s rice is grown from Japan to Pakistan. The region is also the largest consumer with 87% of the rice eaten there. However, rice is used in staple dishes in many cuisines outside of Asia, from Spanish paella to Italian risotto.
There are many rice varieties but they almost all come from the Indian or Japanese varieties and, but for simplicity purposes, rice packages are usually labelled as: white, brown, red, purple or black, although the popularity and availability of white rice overshadows the other kinds, and black, purple and red rice are hard to find outside of Asia.
But let’s get our rice facts straight first.
Every rice variety can be processed to be either white, which means refined, or brown, meaning the outer bran layer has been maintained. So, in reality, rice is either white or colored, with colored rice being either red, black or purple. It can also be long, short or medium grain depending on the length of the grain.
Although you will most likely only find white or brown rice in your supermarket this does not mean your choice of rice is limited because there are hundreds of types of white rice.
The most common ones are the fragrant sticky Thai Jasmine rice, India’s Basmati rice, Spain’s bomba rice used for paellas, Chinese glutinous rice and Japanese short-grain rice like the one used to make sushi.
Red rice is a type of rice that I fell in love with in Bhutan where it is the most widely eaten variety. This unprocessed colored rice is mostly grown in the Himalayas, that is, in India, Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet, and has reemerged in the south of India, in Kerala and Tamil Nadu where it is also used as a medicinal food in Ayurveda.
But where does red rice come from?
Rice is an ancient crop that has been cultivated for thousands of years and every country in Asia has its own legends and stories around red rice. A Japanese legend tells of the rice plant without any seeds, until the Goddess Kuan Yin sprinkled milk on it and white rice grains appeared. When pressed, the rice bled and this is how red rice came into being. The Balinese think a magical bird brought the seeds.
Red rice is mentioned in Ayurveda texts, Buddhist scripts and Japanese and Korean documents but was almost eradicated from several countries when it was deemed a threat for white rice varieties which were favored. Thankfully, it is making a come back in some parts of southern India and Japan.
The benefits of red rice porridge and this recipe
On the nutritional front, red rice has similar nutritional values as brown rice, plus anthocyanin pigments which are antioxidants similar to the ones found in red vegetables and fruits like beetroot or blueberries.
Red rice is richer in iron and zinc than other rice varieties so it will make you feel more energised and help you fight anemia.
Most importantly, it is a whole grain as the outer red bran layer is what gives it its color, thus it has the highest percentage of fiber in any rice (6%) and the lowest carbohydrate content (68% vs. 78% for white rice), and this results in a low glycemic index (GI).
Foods with low GI release energy slowly into the system so they help you feel fuller for longer.
If you are going to eat rice, red rice is the best rice variety, superior even to brown rice, and it is also a better grain option to other refined grains like corn or wheat when looking at nutritional value.
Reading the above, you know why I wanted to prepare this rice porridge recipe with red rice instead of white rice, the benefits are clear, even if the texture of a porridge made with red rice is not the same creamy texture you will get with white rice.
And look at the nutritional values, this dish has practically no fat or sugar, is high in calcium, covers your daily needs for vitamin A and gives you a good serving of fiber.
What I love about this red rice porridge recipe
White rice porridge is a traditional breakfast staple across Asia, from China to Vietnam and even Singapore. Its comforting, soft texture makes it a welcoming food when you are sick and it is commonly prepared by parents across the region when their kids are unwell. Even I used to get it as a kid in Spain.
Usually, the base porridge is creamy and goey and can be toped with your favorite ingredients and condiments which are served on the side so everyone can customise their own dish. You will commonly find fried shallot and onion, garlic, chives, spring onions, soy or chilli sauce and even some lemon, depending on the country.
You can also add protein in the form of grilled or boiled chicken and, in China, slices of fried dough that I like to refer to as Chinese churros (and which I always hunt for in hotel breakfast buffets).
In this red rice porridge version the bran in the rice will make the porridge chewier rather than goey which is how I like my rice to be, I also made it less runny and dried, using the creamy egg yolk to add the goey texture, but you can choose to cook it to your desired “soupiness”.
I added some traditional toppings to my porridge but no spiciness as I do not like to start my day with strong flavors like garlic, onion or chilli. However, for a more traditional take, you should consider adding a little bit of all three ingredients. I did include a squeeze of lemon juice.
This recipe will give you energy and all the health benefits of the red rice minus the high-carb, sugar rush intake that you find in white rice porridge.
Recipe: Red rice porridge
Rice recipes will usually suggest you rinse or soak the rice overnight. There are also infinite ways to cook it, using a rice cooker, boiling, steaming it, cooking it in banana leaves, there are as many ways to prepare rice as there are cooks. I am just going to give you some tips so you can pick the way you like the most.
Here are some basic rules for cooking any kind of rice:
- Rinsing the rice: is necessary if you buy a rice that has been sitting around collecting dust. In Asia, because of the high household consumption, rice is sold in large sacs and finding less than 1kg packets is impossible with 5kg being the norm. The rice in these sacs needs to be rinsed first to remove the residue and dust. Look at the packet to see if it recommends you rinse it. Rinsing the rice will remove a lot of the nutrients so it should only be done if necessary.
- Soaking the rice: is recommended to shorten the cooking time but it will also remove some of the nutrients, unless the water used to soak it is then used to cook it. I rarely soak rice because I am not pressed for time and cook it while I work or do other things, but is helpful to know it can help.
- Water to rice ratio: At home, my mum always used to cook rice in abundant water and drain the excess. But with the water, also went the nutrients of the rice. In Asia, rice is generally cooked in a rice cooker where the exact amount of rice and water is measured and no extra water is drained. I would suggest you try to do the same and use the exact measurements. Every kind of rice, and even variety, sub-variety and brand will have different measurements so it pays to look at the packaging.
- Cooking time: can vary dramatically from just a few minutes with a rice cooker to 1h with a pot for some varieties so, again, read the packaging and keep checking to make sure it does not run out of water.
- Let the cooked rice rest: for 5-10min after it is ready, to ensure that the rice is fluffy and any extra water is fully absorbed. This may not be necessary if using a rice cooker.
Comforting and nutritious easy red rice porridge recipe that remains chewy and delicious.
- 1 Egg
- 30 gr Dry red rice (1/4 cup)
- 1 Sprig of parsley
- 1 tbsp Fried shallow
- 1 tsp Olive oil
- 1/2 Red onion
- CHOP: Chop the onion into half moons and fry for 5min at low heat in a large pot where the rice will cook.
- BOIL: Add the water and bring to a boil, add the rice and the sliced onion, cover and lower heat to a simmer for the recommended time. Once the time has been reached, see if the rice needs more water and cook for 50% longer time to achieve a congee. Once cooked, let it rest for 5min.
- POACH: About 15min before the rice is cooked, bring water to a boil and add an egg. Cook for exactly 5min. Let it cool and peel when cooked.
- ASSEMBLE: Pour the rice in a bowl, top with freshly chopped Chinese parsley, some fried shallots and the egg. Break the egg and mix the creamy yolk with the rest of the porridge.
Check instructions: Every red rice is different so while there are rules of thumb, it is best to read the instruction on the packet you bought and see if you need to rinse the rice before cooking or not. Take note of the time and amount of water recommended and add around 50% more to both for the porridge consistency.
Keep an eye on the porridge: You can always add more boiling water if you see it needs more or if you want it to be less thick.
If you know how to, you can replace the soft-boiled egg with a poached egg.
This porridge can be topped with anything you have in your pantry. Traditionally, soy sauce and chilli sauce are also added, as is fresh spring onion and a dash of lemon juice.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 233Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 186mgSodium: 75mgCarbohydrates: 29gFiber: 2gSugar: 3gProtein: 9g
Values may vary depending on ingredients and brands used.
Have you tried this recipe at home? We would LOVE to see your yum creations!
Tag @BreakfastBowlRecipes and use the hashtag #MyBreakfastBowl so we can share the love ♥
Possible variations to this red rice porridge recipe
This red rice porridge recipe can be changed up to whatever you have available and to your liking. Most Asians will top the porridge with spicy, tangy and salty condiments and will forgo the egg.
Here are a few creative ideas to try:
- Scrambled egg: Instead of a soft-boiled egg, you can simply crack a raw egg directly into the porridge when its pipping hot, stir to get strands of egg.
- Spicy kick: Do as locals do and add a squeeze of lemon, chopped spring onion, a dash of soy sauce and some spicy chilli oil, sauce or paste and mix it all.
- Add protein: Add leftover shredded chicken or duck meat to the porridge and drizzle with some soy sauce.
- Make it fishy: Sprinkle dried prawns or bonito flakes and a bit of fish sauce, spring onion and chilli
- Elevate it: Make it a complete and powerful breakfast with a canned sardine and a bit of oyster sauce for that extra Omega-3 boost.
- Make it sweet: Rice is a rather bland base which can also be turned into a sweet porridge. Replace the egg with some coconut sugar, a dash of coconut cream and slices of mango for a red rice porridge version of mango sticky rice.