お粥 (Okayu) – Rice Porridge

Okayu

Rice porridge is a staple food all across Asia, though probably China and Japan are most known for it. It is a great dish to know how to make for a couple of reasons: you can put anything you want in it, and it’s one of those warm, comforting foods that is great for rainy days and runny noses. It kind of fills the niche of both chicken soup and oatmeal.

Since the rice is cooked until very soft, it is often served to people who are sick, since it is easy to digest, but it is delicious regardless of your state of health. It is easy to make with some meat, or to make vegetarian or vegan, just depending on what you want.

When we cook dishes that are served with rice and we have leftover rice, we wrap it in plastic wrap and stick it in the freezer just for the purpose of making rice porridge. You can then just pull some out, unwrap it, stick it in the pot with liquid, and heat it up. It’s hard to judge ratios of rice to liquid this way, but in the end it doesn’t really matter that much. If you’re using pre-cooked rice, you want about twice as much liquid as rice to start with, but you can always adjust as it cooks and add more or cover the pot if you don’t have enough liquid, or remove the lid to let liquid cook off if you have too much.

This rendition just happens to use a number of things we had in our fridge that needed to be used, and it turned out really delicious. Try to find the same ingredients, or just use what you have at home and make up something new. The same basic principles we state below will give you a good starting point to experiment from.

Ingredients

  • Approximately 2 cups cooked rice
  • Approximately 4 cups chicken stock
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 large or several small carrots, sliced thinly
  • 4 Chinese-style sausages, sliced
  • 3 eringi (king oyster) mushrooms, diced
  • Handful of turnips and turnip greens, roughly chopped
  • Handful of komatsuna, roughly chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Place the cooked rice in your pot, and add maybe 3/4 of the stock.
  2. Turn on the heat to medium-high. If you’re using frozen rice, let it defrost and break apart.
  3. Once the rice is all broken up and the stock is steaming, reduce the heat to low, and start adding other ingredients. Add the minced ginger and garlic first.
  4. Next, start adding ingredients that take longer to cook, like the carrots and sausage in this case. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Let those ingredients cook for a while with the rice and stock, adding a little more stock periodically if need be, to maintain the desired texture of the porridge. Be sure to stir regularly, so the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot.
  6. Once those ingredients start to soften/cook, add other ingredients that don’t take as long to cook, like the mushrooms, turnips, and any sturdier greens you may have (the komatsuna in this case).
  7. Once everything is nearly finished, add anything you don’t want to cook very long – delicate greens (the turnip greens) and green onion in this case.
  8. Taste for seasoning, add anything you think it might need, and then serve it up in bowls, steaming hot!

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