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Congee (粥 zhōu) is a "cure-it'all" food.

Updated: Aug 5, 2019

I am not a big fan of a "cure-it-all" fad diet trends that come and go on a yearly basis. It is a very big statement when somebody says that they have a solution to all our health problems. So let me explain why I made this statement myself.

Let me start from the beginning... Our body is mainly fueled by 3 things: air, food and our body itself (carbohydrates, fats and proteins that we are built of). Therefore, in Chinese Medicine we consider the first 2 factors to constitute acquired energy while the 3rd inherited energy. We can all agree that some people are born stronger and more resilient and others are born frail and get sick easily. Inherited energy also provides reserves at the time of famine or severe sickness (break down of fat cells and eventually protein). In my practice I often refer to inherited energy as a "savings account" and acquired energy as a "checking account". Checking account is used and replenished daily. When depletion (poor diet, lack of sleep, long working hours and stress) exceeds replenishment (nourishing foods, meditation, restful sleep) we start tapping into our "savings" and that's how we end up with a adrenal fatigue and other "trendy" chronic issues.

steamed pear and apricot kernels for cough

Therefore, in Chinese Medicine we strongly emphasize the importance of a middle burner. Middle Burner is a name of your entire GI tract plus Liver and Gallbladder. It is located in the middle of the trunk and uses fire or Yang energy to break down food into nutrients thus the name middle burner. Fire or Yang Qi is very important for proper digestion and nutrient absorption. When we put iced drinks, cold smoothies, food taken directly out of refrigerator in our mouths, we actually put our digestive fire down. Just imagine running out of gas while cooking a soup. Broth just sits there, gets stagnant and goes bad halfway cooked. That is exactly what happens when we eat cold food: our metabolism goes down, we get sluggish, we start retaining fluids, we get cold hands and feet and body pains due to impairment in blood circulation, our bowel movement becomes either too loose or too hard. I think it all sounds very familiar.

There are so many Detox or Body Cleanse protocols that suggest you drink detox smoothies or vegetable juices and fast, which can be appropriate in certain circumstances but for the most part cause a big "shock" in your body and put it in a "state of emergency". There is a better, more gentle and more effective way to cleanse your body and strengthen it at the same time. Rice porridge has been used for thousands of years in many asian countries as a warm, nourishing, nutrient dense and easy to digest breakfast. Rice Congee is also known as jook in Cantonese and Korean, zhou in Chinese, and is a soupy grain dish. It is good for EVERYONE. Also if you look at all the seasonal recommendations of healthy eating it is the only recipe you find that is good in all 4 seasons.

Out of all the meals, breakfast is the most important time to eat a warm meal. It sets your GI tract to properly start the day. Slow cooking of the grains helps to soften fibers and make them a lot easier to digest. This cooking method also allows for water to be absorbed by rice grains making it a very hydrating food. Rice congee is used as medicine in post surgery recovery, weak patients, patients who have problems swallowing but even more importantly it is an easy way to preserve and restore everyone's health. If you suffer from bloating, heartburn, acid reflux, constipation, loose stool/diarrhea, poor appetite, stomachaches, weight gain, poor energy, water retention, poor metabolism, cold hands and feet and many more, try having congee for breakfast for 2 weeks and you will notice drastic change right away. Besides, it is very easy to cook making it a perfect base for therapeutic food that you can modify endlessly. Congee is also naturally gluten-free and vegan making it safe for celiac patients and patients with other food sensitivities, as well as vegan and vegetarian patients.


How to make Congee?



It is probably the easiest meal you'll ever make. All you need is rice, water and a slow cooker. You can make it on the stove too but slow cooker is easier as it allows you to cook overnight and prevents spilling. You can buy a small slow cooker for cheap from target or amazon.

1. Put 1/2 cup of jasmine rice in a slow cooker.

You can also use other types of rice but water amount will have to be modified accordingly. I like to use mixed rice grain to get mixed micro nutrients in. Congee can also be made out of millet, Chinese barley/Job's Tears (Yi Yi Ren 薏苡仁) or quinoa.

soak apricot kernels over night

2. Pour 5 cups of water.

You can modify depending how creamy you want your porridge to come out. I suggest to use Artesian Spring Water but regular filtered water is fine too. You can also split water amount with some bone broth or other broth variations.

3. Set slow cooker on low and cook for 4-6 hours or overnight.

The longer rice cooks the healthier the porridge will be.

4. Garnish with salt or honey

peel and core a pear

You can modify your base congee with many ingredients, choose sweet or savory ingredients to suit your palate. I prefer savory. My favorite combination is chicken (organic, free ranged), broccoli, celery and ginger. I also use sesame seeds, scallions and sesame oil for garnish. I recommend using your personalized food table that you get on your first visit to Mulberry Leaf as a guidance to make your congee most therapeutic. You can also use table below as a reference of foods to use to address your health problems:



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