A great, easy recipe to start the day. And a talented water bottle.
In the early eighties I was lucky enough to get a great many assignments to write articles about eating in Asia. It forever changed the way I think about food. After starting the day with nasi lemak or xiao long bao, how could I ever be satisfied with a bowl of cereal?
Congee - or jook as it’s called in Mandarin - is one of my favorite breakfasts. I just found this piece I wrote in early 2010 when I was still reeling from the shock of Gourmet’s demise. Reading it brings back all the melancholy I was feeling at that time.
But I should add that, loose and easy as this recipe may be there’s an even simpler way to tackle it: in a pinch I‘ve been known to take a container of leftover rice from a Chinese restaurant, add water and cook it into porridge. These days, of course, I almost always top the bowl with a spoonful of my favorite chili crunch; I’m pretty sure I had never heard of chili crunch in 2010.
Sun pouring through the window. Lone boat on the river. Woke up to the scent of the chicken stock I made last night while we were sleeping through the Oscars. What I want is a walk along the river in the early morning wind and a comforting bowl of congee when I return.
There is nothing easier to make than the classic Chinese breakfast. It is basically rice slowly cooked with lots of liquid. I like to use arborio rice, although it’s not traditional, and any kind of rice you happen to have on hand will do. The ratio is about 1 cup of rice to 8 cups of liquid; I think it tastes best with chicken stock, although you can certainly use plain water.
Put the rice and liquid in a pot, bring it to a boil, reduce the heat to low, partially cover the pot and let it simmer for an hour and a half or so. Stir it once in a while. The result is a thick, creamy porridge, a canvas for flavor. What you choose as garnish is completely up to you, but to me a julienne of ginger is essential, as is a little shot of really good soy sauce. Peanuts and scallions are nice, and shredded chicken or shiitakes are lovely too. I almost always add a jammy soft boiled egg. But today? I’ve got some leftover chiles in black beans that will provide the jolt of electricity I need on this late winter morning.
I’m not one of those people who walks around carrying a water bottle. But I do keep a bottle of water in my car; you never know when you’ll get thirsty. So a few days ago, when someone gifted me this Klean Kanteen water bottle, I filled it up with cold water and put it in my car.
As it happened, it was 90 degrees yesterday and the water bottle sat in the sweltering heat all day. So I was astonished to get into the car this morning - 26 hours later - and find that the water was still ice cold.
I did a little research into the company. Seem like good people. Family and employee owned. Carbon neutral. Certified B. And they donate 1% of sales to organizations working to make the planet more sustainable and resilient.