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Traditionally known as hsi-fan or “rice water,” congee is eaten throughout China as a breakfast food. It is a thin porridge or gruel consisting of a handful of rice simmered in five to six times the amount of water. Although rice is most common grain for congees, millet, spelt, or other grains are sometimes used. Cook the rice and water in a covered pot four to six hours on warm, or use the lowest possible: a crock pot works well for congees. It is better to use too much water than too little, and it is said that the longer congee cooks, the more “powerful” it becomes.
This simple rice soup is easily digested and assimilated. Tonifies the blood and the qi energy, harmonizes the digestion, and is demulcent, cooling, and nourishing. Since the chronically ill person often has weak blood and low energy, and easily develops inflammations and other heat symptoms from deficiency of yin fluids, the cooling demulcent and tonifying properties of congee are particularly welcome; it is also useful for increasing a nursing mother's supply of milk. The liquid can be strained from the porridge to drink as a supplement for infants and for serious conditions.
Other therapeutic proprieties may be added to the congee by cooking appropriate vegetables, grains, herbs, or meats in the rice water. Sine rice itself strengthens the spleen digestive center, other foods added to a rice congee become more completely assimilated, and their properties are therefore enhance. Listed below are common rice based congees and their specific effects.
Aduki Bean: Dietetic, curative for edema and gout
Carrot: Digestive aid, eliminates flatulence
Fennel: Harmonizes stomach, expels gas; cures hernia
Ginger: Warming and antiseptic to viscera; used for deficient cold digestive weakness: Diarrhea , anorexia, vomiting, and indigestion
Leek: Warming to viscera, good for chronic diarrhea
Liver from Sheep or Chicken: Benefits diseases of the liver: very powerful (use organic organ meats)
Black Pepper: Expels gas: recommended for pain in bowels
Poppy Seed: Relieves vomiting and benefits large intestine
Brown Rice: Diuretic; thrist-quenching; nourishing; good for nursing mothers
Sesame Seed: Moistening to intestines: treats rheumatism
Taro Root: Nutritious; aids the stomach; builds blood
…...Excerpt from “Healing With Whole Foods” -Paul Pitchford