Chicken Congee for a Hurting Heart

Too many people of note have passed away in the last month.

Terry Pratchett finally met DEATH and, hopefully, Binky.

Lee Kuan Yew is finally, hopefully, reunited with his wife, Kwa Geok Choo.

Pak Mie is, hopefully, by the Rainbow Bridge, being greeted by the furry friends that he saved and looked after while they were here.

Closer to home, my uncle boarded the bus as well, leaving a wife, three children, assorted grandchildren and four siblings, one of whom was my mother.

While Pratchett, Harry Lee and Pak Mie made an impact on me, it was the passing of my uncle that brought home the grief the living feel, when I saw my mother crumble and weep when I had to break the news to her. I thought she would recover over the next few days but I was wrong. She took his death badly and did not eat or talk for days after his funeral.

Dad and I bought food – mum did all the cooking at home – but still, she did not eat. In my worry, I took to cooking for her, hoping to tempt her with food so that she would at least have some sustenance. Or at least, if nothing else, try what I had cooked up.

Finally, little by little, she began eating. But stomachs shrink and gastritis sets in when one doesn’t eat for days. So I made her chicken congee, hoping that this would tempt her to eat. Not just any chicken congee, but with one enough flavour that, I hoped, would awaken an appetite and soothe a hurting heart.

(Most of us would call this porridge, because to us, porridge is made from rice, but if I call it porridge, bananas and other non-Asians might think its oats or some other grains, hence my use of the word Congee. But congee or porridge, it is comfort food, and that was what I felt mum needed.)

The ingredients for Chicken Congee for a convalescent 

The ingredients: garlic, shallots, ginger, minced chicken (seasoned and marinated) and spring onions for garnishing
  • Two to three shallots
  • Two cloves of garlic a thumb-length of old ginger
  • A cup and a half of rice
  • About 150gms of minced chicken
  • A couple of sprigs of spring onion or chives, depending on what’s at hand
  • Cooking oil
  • A teaspoonful of sesame seed oil
  • Light soy sauce
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Step One: Prep (About 15 minutes) 

  • Marinate the minced chicken in a teaspoonful of sesame seed oil, light soy sauce, a few pinches of pepper and a pinch of salt for about 15 minutes
  • While the chicken is marinating, wash the rice
  • Peel and finely chop the shallots and garlic
  • Peel, slice and julienne the ginger (tip: it’s easier to scrape off the skin with a spoon. Wash the skin off occasionally in running water and peel until ginger is relatively clean)
  • Cut of the ends and tips of the spring onion and cut into about 5mm lengths
Finely chop the garlic and shallots, wash the rice
Peel and julienne the ginger, which will be used as part of the saute trio as well as garnishing

Step Two: Cooking (about half an hour to 45 minutes)

  • Heat about two to three tablespoons of oil in a pot
  • Once oil is heated, toss in the chopped garlic, shallots and half the julienned ginger
  • Toss in half the minced chicken and saute with the shallots, garlic and ginger
  • Saute until fragrant and the garlic and shallots are translucent
  • Stir in the rice until it is coated in the oil
  • Add four and a half cups of water – it should be about three parts water to one part rice
  • Add the rest of the minced chicken in little balls or pinches
  • Let it boil and then let it simmer for about half an hour; but check to see that the rice is not drying up
  • Once cooked, serve in a pretty bowl and garnish with the ginger strips and spring onion
Stir in the rice when the saute ingredients are translucent
The finished product – flavourful chicken congee garnished with ginger and spring onion

Mum had a small bowl. She liked the garnish of ginger – said it added spice. Of course, she had to make a comment on the unevenness of my julienning. But then again, I was just glad that she finally began eating something.


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