Happy World Porridge Day! Five Flavorful Fun Facts About Congee
World Porridge Day is celebrated every Oct. 10, but we celebrate congee every day.
While we love all kinds of porridges, oatmeals, and gruels, we have a soft spot in our hearts for one that comes from Asia: congee. To us it’s the ultimate comfort food — eaten on chilly days, when we’re feeling under the weather, or when need a boost in our moods. It’s also extremely versatile and relatively healthy. To honor this cozy carb, here are five flavorful fun facts about congee.
The word “congee” comes from an Indian language
While congee might seem quintessentially East Asian, the word actually comes from Tamil, a language spoken in south India and Sri Lanka. The Tamil term is kañji and may have entered English via Portuguese around 1698, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. (From the 15th century, sailors and navigators from Portugal explored many parts of the world.) A traditional chicken and rice soup from Portugal is called canja.
It dates back to ancient China
Depending on who you ask, congee dates back a long time or a really long time ago. According to historian Tobie Meyer-Fong, the earliest evidence is from the Han dynasty (206 B.C. to A.D. 220) while cookbook author Eileen Yin-Fei Lo maintains that it goes all the way back to the Zhou dynasty circa 1000 B.C.
It’s called different things in China and Taiwan
While Mandarin Chinese is a major language in both mainland China and Taiwan, congee goes by different names in each country. In China it’s generally called báizhōu (百粥), “white porridge,” while in Taiwan it’s known as xi fan (稀飯), which translates as “watery rice.”
It’s called the same thing in Cantonese and Korean
Meanwhile, the pronunciation of congee in Cantonese Chinese and Korean is pretty similar: jook (粥) and juk (죽), respectively.
It’s great for leftovers
Have some hardened rice and random protein and vegetables? Throw it all together with some water and have a delicious bowl of goodness.
Craving congee now?
If you're in the New York area, head on over to Big Wong, one of our favorite Chinatown eateries. Pearl River President Joanne Kwong shouted out the Mott Street mainstay in Resy’s wonderful round-up of beloved neighborhood restaurants. Or if you want to try your hand at Asian cooking, check out the cookbooks on our website and our Bookshop store.
[Image by Peachyeung316 (CC BY-SA 4.0)]