Super food! Simple food! Longevity food? Congee
Bama Yao County, in the Guangxi region of Southeast China, is well-known for the longevity of its citizens. This remote mountainous region boasts an unusually high ratio of centenarians, including those who continue living decades over 100! And they have maintained this status over time. While other notable societies of centenarians have seen declines, Bama has not. Traditionally, when a citizen reaches age 60, a coffin is made for him or her. Frequently, coffins wear out long before their intended inhabitants do! Often coffins are used for food storage bins while they wait… and rot… and wait…
Tourists flock, historians and researchers study the people of Bama, and all seek to know the secret behind their unusual longevity. Many factors are credited; foremost of these are diet, clean air, and the disposition of the people.
The people of Bama are generous and hard-working, staying active throughout their lifespan. They live simply and are content with modest means. Their environment is relatively uncontaminated. They grow their own food, which consists of corn, potatoes, rice, vegetables, local hemp seeds, teas, and a daily staple – congee, a.k.a. gruel!
Congee is a simple food, essentially porridge made from grains, usually rice. Any ingredients desired may be added in, and it is used in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) as a healing food. Its medicinal value comes from the method by which it is prepared. It is cooked very slowly over hours. This slow cooked rice makes other ingredients added in more easily digestible, more bioavailable to the body. It is believed that the longer it cooks, the stronger it becomes.
Who might benefit from congee?
Generally, anyone in convalescence, individuals undergoing radiation treatment or chemotherapy, college kids who have pulled a lot of study “all-nighters”, and basically anyone who is overworked, highly stressed, or sleep deprived.
Add in beneficial ingredients, and enjoy with a cup of tea, if desired. Take a moment to sit and eat in peace, like the people of Bama. Then don’t be surprised if a sense of well-being ensues as your body absorbs much needed nourishment. Congee can be prepared in advance and small portions reheated for breakfast, or at any time during the day. To follow are a few simple recipes.
As of late, my house has been flowing with congee. My son has been eating it daily! However, he likes what I call “boring congee”. I enjoy congee with nuts, seeds, dried fruits and spices added in. Or mushrooms and aromatics. Really, anything with flavor! My son likes brown rice and salt. That’s it. But that’s okay; I generally give him something green to eat or drink with it.
Here is my son’s congee… he will pick off the green onion garnish.
Brown rice Congee
- 1 cup brown rice
- 5 cups water
- pinch of sea salt or 1/2 umeboshi plum or about 3/4 – 1 T umeboshi plum paste
Put all ingredients in a slow cooker on low and cook 6-8 hours. You may need to add more water. Check periodically to see if additional water is needed. Alternatively, simply add more water to begin with. You can always cook out any excess water. You can’t overcook the rice. That is the point.
You can also prepare congee in a pot on the stove-top. Simply simmer on a very low heat, for several hours, covered, adding water as needed.
Tip: When I make rice, I simple make extra and keep it refrigerated for a head-start on small congee portions for my son.
Substitution: You can make any congree with virtually any grain. Try oats, millet, buckwheat, whatever will nourish your body and please your taste buds.
Congee the way I like it… with stuff in it…
Fruit and Nuts Congee
Recipe can be found HERE.
Congee my Mom likes… because it makes her feel good… and it tastes good.
Black Fungus Congee
Recipe can be found HERE.
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Enjoy! and Good Health!