Congee with Chinekamini rice with a quick chili-scallion sauce

6:58 PM

Most of us associate the food congee to China but if you look closely then you would find that similar food is available all through the world, albeit in different names.  The basic dish is called gruel where some kind of cereal is cooked with water or milk and depending on the thickness and grains used in the dish, it changes it's name.

Going back in history reveals that Gruel came into existance as a baby food once human learnt farming. Before that in the time of hunting and gathering when the group were mobile the mother had to breastfeed the infants till he or she was able enough to eat foraged food or meat. but the process made the mother stay away from conceiving again and hence the tribe wasn't growing much. After farming came into existence, the mush cooked with grains and cereals were easier to feed the babies and made the mother to conceive again and increasing the size of the tribe much faster.

But hardly anybody knew of it rather it had always been considered as the food of the have not. It was much easier to imagine hungry peasants or as Charles dickens vividly portrayed in his Classic -Oliver Twist, famished orphans eating this very basic mush of grains and water. More so because even broken damaged grains worked better in such concoctions, cooked in the most simplest of form for sustenance and keep one full for long.

This made Gruel popular all over the world.  Depending on the region and its climate the grain changed from pinhead or ground Scottish oats to cheap variety of rice, maize meals, broken corn kernels, millets and even broken wheat, wheat flour and stale bread.  Literally everything that the riches would turn their nose down on were fit to be cooked down with water to a big bowlful of gruel for sustenance. It's that part of the history that no one ever wanted to take notice as not until recently we ever wanted to explore what was on table for the under privileged.

But right now Gruel, porridge and thick beverages like Atole are something that the gourmet world is taking notice of. Be it Italian Polena, Middle Eastern wheat berry porridge Burbarra, Zimbabowe's Mielie Meal or Bengal's very own broken rice Khuder bhat are being explored in an exciting and innovative way.

So today am sharing a congee dish with Bengal's very old rice variety called Chinekamini from Amar Khamar. It is a short grain rice very very flavourful and mostly used in Payes or rice pudding. But I wanted to use it in a different manner to suit it to our daily requirement of easy, wholesome dish. Definitely inspired from my memory (like most of my recipes), when farmers working in our land would come back to the house for a sit down breakfast of Khud, alu makha and Tentuler chutney (tamarind chutney, very different from what you get on a chaat ).

This instant chili-scallion sauce is something I discovered on my recent trip to Singapore. I found a Chinese shop making this fiery stuff to top the beef dumpling. It was so hot that it will even burn your lips but so addictive that you would want to finish it no matter what. This pairs so so well with the simple flavourful congee. every one just loved it at home and now is a staple whenever am unsure what to cook for a quick meal.

Congee with instant chilli-scallion sauce
(Serves 3 persons)

Chinekamini rice: 1 cup
Chicken-4-5 pieces with bone
Spring onion: 2-3 plants
Ginger: 1/2" piece
Garlic: 2 cloves
Capsicum: 1/4 for flavour
Chicken/vegetable stock or stock cubes: 2 cups or 1 cube+2cups water
Oil: 1 tsp

Chili-scallion sauce
Chilli flakes: 3 tbsp
Scallion: 4-5 plants
Garlic: 8-10 fat cloves
White oil: 1/2 cup
Light Soy sauce: 2 tsp

Soft boiled eggs
Toasted peanuts
Deep fried crispy garlic

Peel and slice the ginger in 3-4 pieces
Cut the garlic in quarters.
Make 3-4 slices with the capsicum.
Wash and make a knot in the spring onion bunch
Wash and soak the rice in one cup water.

Heat 1 tsp oil in a pressure cooker and add the ginger-garlic and scallion and also the chicken. Sprinkle little salt and saute it till the chicken turns white (3-4 minutes.) Add the rice with water along with two more cups water (stock if using) and 1 cube stock powder. Stir and bring it to a boil. Tighten the lid and cook it on medium for two whistles. Rest for 15 minutes and then open the lid. Adjust salt and add 1 more cup water and boil it for 2-3 minutes more. 
Serve with the sauce and other accompaniments.

Wash and very finely chop the scallion and garlic. Place these two along with the chili flakes in a heat resistant bowl. Heat the oil till smoking and immediately pour in the garlic-chili mixture. It will bubble a lot. carefully mix it and let it rest for a few minutes. then add salt and soy sauce to adjust.

To Serve
Place the congee in a bowl spoon over some chili sauce and sprinkle toastesd sesame, toasted peanuts, chopped scallion, crisp fried garlic and finally place a soft boiled egg.
Enjoy it just after you have finished cooking.

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  1. Hi, I don't get this variety of rice in Chile.Can I use any other short grain rice or jasmine rice?


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