Low in fat and calories, Japanese congee is ideal for those looking to shed a few pounds.
Okayu – Japanese Congee
As a little girl, my mother used to make okayu (Japanese congee) whenever I was sick with a fever. That was the only time she served it and because of that, I hated it with a passion. My mother’s okayu tasted as bland as an unsalted cracker soaked in water, and because she was (and still is) such a great cook, I thought all okayu tasted this way.
When I moved to Hong Kong and saw that congee was a very popular and revered dish, my brain couldn’t understand why. I love Chinese food but this was one dish I wouldn’t eat for the longest time. Then one day I finally relented and agreed to give it a try. A friend took me to a famous spot in Causeway Bay that offered many different flavors of congee. I practiced making yummy sounds in my head so as not to offend my friend but didn’t have to as what was put in front of me was a revelation: Unctuous and creamy, almost like a delicious cream of chicken soup, scattered with julienned ginger strips and pieces of chicken, my bowl of congee made me utter mmmmm sounds that I didn’t need to fake – It was spectacular!
Since then I’ve been fully converted into a congee lover. Okayu, or Japanese congee is very easy to make: with only 2 cups of cooked Japanese rice, it can yield many servings. You’ll end up with a large pot that will last a few meals. It’s also the perfect diet food because it’s filling yet low in fat and calories.
To make this okayu super healthy, I’m adding butternut squash, lots of onions and spinach. You can add anything to this so have fun experimenting with many different types of okayu! Serve it with a side of pickled daikon or some tsukemono (Japanese pickles), it makes a wonderful pairing!
1 thumb size ginger (julienned (cut into very thin strips))
2 cloves garlic (chopped (optional))
3 cups spinach (chopped)
In a large pot over high heat, add olive oil, ginger strips and garlic. Cook for a minute and add onions with a sprinkle of salt. Cook for about 5 minutes.
Add rice, stir and add 8 cups of broth. Bring to boil, lower heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes.
Add butternut squash and the remaining 2 cups of broth. Bring to boil, lower heat and simmer again for 20 minutes.
Add chopped spinach and cook for an addition 10 minutes. Turn the heat off, season with salt and pepper and serve.
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originally published February 23, 2012 — last updated September 20, 2018