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  1. Rice porriges, eaten from Japan to Persia as breakfasts, snacks, and lunches, are considered warming and soothing, as well as a stabilizing influence on the stomach and digestive tract. The English word congee is derived from the Indian kanji, meaning boilings, a Tamil word for the water in which rice is boiled. In India today, kanji refers both to this "rice water" that is drained off when rice is cooked like pasta and to the thick gruel made by boiling a little rice with a lot of water.

  2. In India, the flavorings added to porridge range from salt, ghee, black pepper, and cumin to more elaborate hot and salty pickles. In Gujarat, ghains is made by combining rice porridge with beaten yogurt and a little fresh ginger. Another gruel from India includes both rice and split peas. It is called khichri. It is always served with ghee, salt, and pepper, although other spices and vegetables may be added to the basic dish. There are actually two types of khichri in India - the porridge or wet khichri and a dry, puffy, grainy form known as khili hui khichri, or the "khichri that has bloomed".

  3. To eat congee in the Indian style, salt it first. Then add lots of freshly ground pepper and ghee or butter If you like, this ghee can be heated, whole cumin seeds popped in it, and then poured over the congee and mixed in. Serve Indian style vegetables on the side.

  4. A word of caution: Rice gruels should be made in heavy pots with an even distribution of heat.

  5. Plain Unseasoned Congee 1/2 cup long or sort grain rice If rice is American and "enriched" do not wash it. Otherwise, wash and drain the rice. Put rice and 5 3/4 cups water into a heavy, 3 1/2 to 4 quart pot and slowly bring to a boil. Stir now and then as it comes to a boil. Lower heat to medium and cook rice for 10 minutes, stirring once or twice. Cover, leaving lid slightly ajar, and cook onvery low heat for 1 1/4 hours. Congee may be made ahead of time and reheated. It tends to get thick and gummy as it sits. Thin it out with a little boiling water and then reheat, stirring frequently, over low heat.


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