Pressure Cooked: Calming Congee

To my low carbing friends: look away. This dish is rice-based, and I’m not even going to pretend that it could be made with a low carb rice alternative (like cauliflower or shirataki “rice”) and still taste as good. Because it won’t. But, for those who are ok with straying off the low carb path once in a while, congee is comfort food you won’t forget. And, made in an electric pressure cooker, it’s quick and easy!

On dark, dreary days in the midst of our many current (collective) challenges, nourishing dishes like congee – a delicious, savory rice porridge familiar to many cultures – can be wholesome comfort food: thick and creamy, but less heavy than a dairy-based soup, and its uniquely suited combination of toasted sesame oil and fish sauce swirled on top will leave you wanting more. A hearty soup can warm the cockles and, sometimes, even lift the spirits. Worth trying, anyway, right?

I used to make it in my very fine Zojirushi rice maker – which actually has a porridge setting – and it came out beautifully. Nowadays, though, I prefer multipurpose kitchen appliances, and have come to treasure my Instant Pot (well, pots) – and the IP does congee remarkably well.

This one-bowl meal made me venture outside of my usual zone of Manual, Sauté, and Steam functions and use the Porridge setting (actually, I’ve used the Rice setting, too, to make quinoa, but I prefer using Manual to cook rice). The Porridge setting cooks for about 20 minutes, once up to pressure. The Instant Pot website helpfully explains the setting as follows: “PORRIDGE – Use the Less mode for Oatmeal; use the Normal mode for making rice porridge (congee); use the More mode for a porridge / congee that contains a mixture of beans or tougher grains”. I love that congee is specifically referenced in these instructions!

The homegrown chicken congee was so tasty that I decided to create a different version soon afterward, and it was also delightful: subbing frozen (shelled, tailless) shrimp and cubed tofu for the chicken created a soup that’s, honestly, just as good.

With so many other options for flavoring this dish, fish congee – using frozen flounder fillets that have been languishing in the freezer – was up next on the menu (photo below). I suspect I may be eating a lot of congee this winter!

Try this recipe for yourself! Tip: since I don’t keep Vietnamese crullers on hand, I toast a piece of (low-GI) sourdough bread, tear it into pieces, and add to my congee.