Have you ever tried rice for breakfast?

Compared with lunch and dinner, breakfast is fairly limited in terms of choices.  Oatmeal, smoothies, toast, eggs, granola with yoghurt… these are the Mon-Fri staples for most.  Before studying Chinese medicine, I was an oatmeal kind of gal.  And judging by the intake forms I see in clinic, I am not alone.

Oatmeal is a good option but with all the additions (maple syrup, dried fruit, etc) it can end up spiking your blood sugar and leaving you hungry an hour later.  It’s a step up from sugary granola but maybe there is another alternative. Something more traditional and nutritional.  Something with a nice ring to it…


Gruel, also known as ‘congee’ or ‘hsi-fan’ (rice water), resembles a thin porridge and is a traditional breakfast food across China.  To make it, you take a handful of rice and simmer it for at least an hour in 5-6 times the amount of water.  It is said that the longer the congee cooks, the more powerful it becomes.

Wet-cooked porridge or congee is helpful in treating a wide variety of health conditions.  It can tonify weak digestion, alleviate chronic dehydration and calm inflammation or heat pathologies.  Congee is ideal for the young, old or convalescing and can benefit anyone who stressed their digestion the previous evening, drank too much or ate while worried or upset.

Although it is trendy to avoid carbs these days, it is really sugar and poorly combined foods that cause digestive issues for so many people.   Classically, grains are Earth foods and if skillfully used, are the foundation of good health.

Basic Congee Recipe:

1 cup raw long-grain white rice, rinsed
7-8 cups water
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, plus more for seasoning
One-inch knob of ginger, peeled and sliced thin
Sliced green onion, for garnish
Sesame seed oil, soy sauce, egg (optional)

Step 1
In a large pot add water, rice, salt and ginger.  Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a low simmer.  Stir occasionally so that the rice doesn’t clump or stick at the bottom.

Step 2
Simmer the congee for about 1 hour or until the congee is thickened and creamy.  Add salt to taste and serve the congee hot with sliced green onion and optional egg, sesame oil and soy sauce to taste.