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Indonesian chicken rice congee (Bubur ayam)

I fell in love with congee during my working years. I used to travel to Asia quite often and I would seek out the small section of congee at the breakfast buffet. while my colleagues would head to the more traditional eggs and pastry section, I was slurping up bowls of delicious congee and every condiment and garnish that I could get my hands on, pickled fish, poached prawns, soy-braised chicken, fermented tofu, fried garlic and onions, and the plethora of hot sauces and all kinds of vinegar and pickled vegetables. This was a ritual and my consistency of bringing these small bowls over made some of my colleagues want to also try this delicacy.

Here is a lovely congee, light, fresh and classic. The base rice porridge is delicate and lightly scented with dry spices. It is topped with shredded chicken and any combination of the garnishes that you desire. This congee is built to be comfort food, with the right elements all playing important parts, soft rice, shredded chicken and the scent of familiar spices and condiments. A few bowls of this conjee and you have had a satisfying meal. I serve this congee in small bowls, guests then can make as many variations with different condiments of their choice.

For a vegetarian version, you can use cubed tofu instead of chicken

This is a beautiful cookbook on Indonesian cuisine. The dishes are lovely and flavorful and the recipes are very well written. This book brings a diversity of cuisine to my kitchen and table. Lara Lee brings to you recipes that have been handed down through generations orally, as well as newer recipes in a very easy-to-read format. This is a great book for those who want to learn about this cuisine and culture.

For more delicious recipes from this cookbook click here


10-12 black peppercorns

1 petal star anise

1-inch piece of cinnamon stick

1 bay leaf

2-3 dried red chillies, whole

1 tablespoon ginger paste, or very thin batons

1 tablespoon ground coriander seeds

2 Kaffir lime leaves

2-inches lemongrass stem, lightly bruised

8 cups water

Salt, to taste

1 lb chicken thighs, or cut of your choice

1 cup basmati or short-grain rice

8-10 shallots, peeled and kept whole

To garnish:

Kikkoman soy sauce

Kecap manis

Crisp chilli oil

Fried shallots

Fried garlic

Cilantro, minced

Thin egg omelettes or a fried egg

Roasted peanuts

Scallions, thinly sliced

Lime wedges

Bring a large pot with the water and salt to a boil.

While this is heating up, toast each of the whole spices, peppercorns, star anise, cinnamon stick, bay leaf and red chillies individually till they are lightly toasted and aromatic. Add to the pot of water.

Add the rest of the spices and herbs, ginger, coriander, lime leaves, and lemongrass and bring the stock to a boil. Wash the chicken well and add to the pot with the rice and shallots. Bring back to a boil.

Cover with a lid and simmer for 60 minutes. Stir the pot occasionally so the rice does not stick to the bottom and burn. Towards the end of the cooking time be careful with the liquids and add more as needed.

Scoop out the chicken and cool completely. Shred the chicken finely between your fingers, it should be very soft, and discard any bones. Add half the chicken back to the congee and mix in. Keep the rest of the chicken covered so it does not dry out.

Cook the rice till you have a granular consistency to your liking. i generally like small granules of rice in my congee for texture, but you can cook it longer to a texture of your choice. In addition, make the congee to a consistency of your liking, from runny to thick, I like mine to be somewhere in the middle so i can get a good feel for the starchy texture.

If you make the congee ahead of time, it will thicken with time. When reheating, add water to thin it out to your liking.

Serve very hot, topped with some shredded chicken and any combination of the garnishes above.

Note: I generally serve the congee in small bowls so guests can have multiple servings each with a different set of condiments if desired.

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