The temperature is FINALLY cooling down in LA, so it’s about time to bust out some cozy soup recipes. This is not exactly a soup but it’s something I eat a lot especially when I want a cozy dish. It is chicken congee. This is very much a Chinese/Vietnamese dish with stuff like dried shrimp and chili oil, but that’s why it has so much flavor! It is a bit of a long cooking experience but totally worth it in the end.
Ingredients, Substitutions & Adjustments
- Chicken – I used a 4 pound chicken for this recipe. You can also use 4 pounds of bone in chicken thighs if using an entire chicken is intimidating. Whatever cut of chicken you choose make sure it has some bone. Bones give broth the best flavor.
- Yellow onion – Adds sweetness to the recipe. A good substitute is a white onion.
- Dried shrimp – Adds sweetness to the recipe. If you can’t find dried shrimp, I would substitute with 1/2 pound of raw shrimp.
- Coriander seeds & fennel seeds – These 2 herbs add a herbaceous flavor to the broth.
- Low sodium chicken broth – I would highly recommend using low sodium chicken broth, so you can control the amount of salt in the soup. It’s harder to fix a broth that is too salty. If you do use full sodium chicken broth, I would taste the soup as it simmers and adjust the seasoning accordingly.
- Salt & sugar – The salt brings out the flavors of the other ingredients, and the sugar adds sweetness.
- Jasmine rice – Any kind of long grain rice will work for this recipe. Different kinds of rice cook differently, so I would taste the congee for texture as you simmer it.
- Garlic salt – Adds more seasoning to the rice.
- Garlic – Adds more flavor to the rice.
- Green onions & cilantro – Adds freshness and makes the dish look pretty!
- Fried shallots (optional) – Adds some texture and extra flavor to the dish. This is optional but definitely one of my favorite parts of this congee recipe. I don’t make my own fried shallots. I buy pre-made fried shallots at the grocery store.
- Chili oil (optional) – You can use either chili oil or sesame oil for this congee.
- Pepper (optional) – Adds more flavor to this dish.
Making my chicken congee
Make the chicken broth
The first step is to make your broth. Combine coriander seeds and fennels seeds in the center of a 8×8 cheese cloth. Tie the corners together to create your spice package Set aside. Next, add chicken to a large soup pot. Add water until it just covers the chicken. Bring water to a boil. Once the water boils, lower to a simmer and add the dried shrimp, onions, spice package, and the cans of chicken broth. Simmer for 30-40 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Make sure to scoop away any impurities you see.
Make the chicken congee
An alternative method to making chicken congee
As I was developing this recipe, I started thinking about how long this recipe takes to make. In total, it takes a little over 4 hours which a lot of people don’t have time for. So I started thinking about how you could shorten it for those who wanted to make this recipe but didn’t have a lot of time. This is what I came up with.
First for the broth, I would buy pre-made low sodium chicken broth (4-5 cans of broth). I would bring that broth to a boil and set aside. Make sure to check for seasoning and add salt to taste. I would then saute the rice and garlic with butter. Store bought chicken broth doesn’t have a ton of flavor, so adding the butter helps correct for that. After sautéing the rice, I would follow the rest of the recipe as written. For the shredded chicken on top, I would buy a rotisserie chicken. Shred it and throw that on top with the rest of the toppings. That’s how you make a cheater version of this recipe!
Tips on how to make the perfect chicken congee
- Scooping out impurities is the key to a clear, clean broth – The key to any good broth is to get rid of the impurities. Impurities are the foam-y bubbles that float at the top of the broth as you cook it. You can typically see them when the broth begins to boil. Use a spoon to skim them off the top.
- Dry out your rice before sautéing – If your rice is not bone dry before your start sautéing it, the rice will tend to clump up which results in a clumpy congee. I would wash your rice then let it sit at room temperature for ~30 minutes. In my second test I didn’t dry my rice out enough, so I had to compensate by continually stirring the the rice until the heat from the stove dries it out. It’s definitely more labor intensive, but it ensures my congee is really smooth.
- Be careful not to burn the rice when you saute it – Burned rice makes for a congee with a funky flavor. The rice should be a light, golden brown color (see picture for reference) before you start making the congee.
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- First make your spice package. Add coriander seeds and fennel seeds to the center of a 8x8 cheese cloth. Tie the corners together to create your little spice package. Set aside.
- Next, add chicken to a large soup pot. Add water until it just covers the chicken. Bring water to a boil.
- Once the water boils, lower to a simmer and add the dried shrimp, onions, spice package from step 1, and the cans of chicken broth. Simmer for 30-40 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Make sure to scoop away any impurities you see.
- After the chicken is cooked, remove the chicken from the broth and let it cool for 10 minutes. Continue simmering the soup. Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones and add the bones back to the broth. Shred the chicken into small pieces and set aside.
- Add salt and sugar to the broth. Simmer for 1 1/2 more hours.
- While the broth is simmering, rinse your rice and let it sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. The rice needs to dry out before you start cooking it.
- After simmering for an hour, the broth should be done at this point. Taste the broth for seasoning. Add salt if it tastes bland.
- Now it’s time to make your congee! Sauté rice, minced garlic and garlic salt in a small soup pot until the rice turns a light brown color. Don’t use oil for this process.
- Add 10 cups of stock and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer. Simmer for 1 hour on medium low until the rice is mushy. Add more broth if needed. Make sure to stir every once in awhile so the rice at the bottom doesn’t burn.
- Once the rice is done, assemble your bowls of congee! Add a few spoonfuls of congee to a bowl. Top with green onions, cilantro, fried shallots, shredded chicken, a few drops of chilli oil, and pepper to taste.