Vietnamese Chicken Congee in the Pressure Cooker

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The dish I have been most obsessed with in the past few months has been Vietnamese Chicken Congee (Cháo Gà). The combination of black pepper and fresh herbs over a rice porridge is simple yet has amazing flavor.

Prior to getting a pressure cooker, I made the dish a few times using my rice cooker. It was good, but because the rice cooker works by steaming off the liquid, it wasn’t soupy enough. Too clumpy. Plus it took forever. The pressure cooker solved everything. Not only could I dial in my liquid level prior to cooking, but it was now cooking much faster.

pressure-cooker

I use the Fagor 8 quart pressure cooker.

Not Authentic, But Just as Good

I’m not Vietnamese and this is not an authentic recipe. My goal was to replicate this dish in a way that is easy to make and can be done quickly. My recipe is optimized to taste amazing with minimal time. Doing this over the stove without a pressure cooker can take from 30 minutes to 2 hours. With the pressure cooker, including prep time, it will take just 20 minutes.

  • Texture: The texture of the congee is personal preference. You can make it thick like oatmeal or soupy. I prefer it somewhere in the middle.
  • Chicken: Almost every recipe says to use a whole chicken. If you have one and feel like cutting it up and dealing with that, then go for it. I’ve discovered that thinly sliced chicken thighs are perfect. Chicken breasts were dry and distracted from the dish flavor, so don’t use just breasts.
  • Rice: Many recipes call for mixing two types of white together. I do this, but the important thing is to use short grain white rice. With congee the goal is to really break down the rice. When the rice breaks down, the starches in the grains thicken the dish.
  • Ginger: Required. I go overboard on ginger myself.
  • Garnish: Black pepper and fish sauce are must haves. For herbs, you can use cilantro, but for me nothing beats Thai basil. Slicked green onions is nice if you have them, but not necessary. For sweetness, most congee dishes add a pinch of cut up Chinese donuts. As someone who avoids both wheat and deep fried foods, I don’t add that ingredient. But if that is your thing, add away.

What I learned is the key to making good congee is that the rice required more cooking than the chicken. To make efficient use of my time, I begin cooking the rice before I start any of the other prep work.

Ingredients

My congee is heavy on the chicken and ginger. Use less if you like. This is a loose recipe, so use this as a starting point and then dial in your own customization.

  • 1.5 cups short grain rice. Jasmine and/or sushi rice. Use one or blend two.
  • 1 package of chicken thighs (~1 pound).
  • 1-3 inch ginger. Peeled, cut into very small or crushed pieces.
  • 2 cups of chicken stock.
  • black pepper
  • fish sauce
  • Thai basil (or cilantro or sliced green onions)

Step 0 – Soak the Rice (optional)

If you aren’t ready to start cooking yet and you have some time, throw the rice in a bowl of water or the pressure cooker itself. This will help the rice break down more. If you are ready to cook, skip this step.

Step 1 – Start Cooking the Rice

Put the rice in the pressure cooker, cover with water. Turn the flame to high. The water level should cover the rice by 1-2 inches. You aren’t using the pressure cooker as a pressure cooker yet. Leave the lid off and monitor. You don’t want all the water to boil off. If you need to add more water, do so.

While the rice is cooking, you’ll be preparing the other ingredients.

Step 2 – Prep Work

Peel and cut up the ginger. Slice up the chicken. Locate the chicken stock.

Step 3 – Cook the Congee in the Pressure Cooker

By this point, the rice should be boiling and cooking away. Add the ginger, chicken and chicken stock. Look at the liquid level and decide if this is the consistency you want for your congee. You can more water or chicken stock if you like. Close the pressure cooker and once pressurized cook for 10 minutes on High.

Turn off pressure cooker. Grab and bowl and serve.

Step 4 – Serve and Garnish

Add black pepper, fish sauce and the Thai basil. Enjoy!

chicken congee

Vietnamese Chicken Congee. This bowl also has sliced scallions (green onions). 

Once you’ve had congee, with the flavor mix of ginger, black pepper, fish sauce and Thai basil, I can’t imagine ever eating something as boring as oatmeal ever again. Congee is my favorite breakfast food, although I’ve had it for dinner as well. 10 minutes of prep work and 10 minutes of pressure cooking is all it takes to make this classic dish.

10 thoughts on “Vietnamese Chicken Congee in the Pressure Cooker

  1. Colin

    This sounds delicious. One question: are you deboning the chicken thighs? Can’t tell from the pictures.

  2. Kitty

    I’ve been using a pressure cooker my entire adult life as did my mother and grandmother. There’s been a lack of innovative recipes for the pressure cooker but that’s changing. HipPressureCooking dot com is an excellent source for tasty recipes for both novices and old hands.

  3. Steve Foster

    I used this recipe to riff off of and the result was fantastic. I first pressure-cooked chicken stock with skin-on bone-in thighs (cut in half through the bone), then started the rice cooking using the fresh stock, while I shredded the thighs. I used 1/2 C sushi rice, 1/2 C arborio rice, and 1/2 C Thai sticky rice.

    I pressure-cooked the rice with dried shiitake, fresh portobellos, lots of ginger (more next time) and green onions, then tossed in the shredded chicken, more green onions and Italian parsley before serving. It was so thick it could be eaten with a fork, so next time I’ll double or triple the stock.

    I suspect I’ve now joined the billion+ people who look forward to a bowl of jook/congee every morning.

  4. Steve

    Thanks! Since I wrote I’ve piled on even more flavour: I made another batch of chicken stock to thin out my thick congee, then steeped konbu and katsuobushi (bonito flakes) in the chicken stock to make a double chicken/dashi stock. The resulting congee is one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever eaten. (Though I should add that I’m Scottish, literally grew up eating oatmeal porridge, so I’m naturally drawn to drab-looking goop 🙂

    When I finish this batch (in about a week from now: 1 1/2 C of rice goes a loooong way), I’ll start by steaming some mussels and make dashi from the juice they throw off, and riff from there. The only reason I used three kinds of rice is because I have them all handy: I’m sure it would be just as good with any one of them.

  5. @Steve – I agree with you on the rice. I think most of the benefit comes from the pre-soak.

    I’ve also experimented with fresh mint. Good, but I still prefer Thai basil.

  6. Great recipe. I’ll be trying it soon. I just read an article on congee in this mornings chicago tribune, and I am intrigued. But as I was reading it, I kept thinking, where does the pressure cooker come in? Seems like a perfect fit. I teach pressure cooking classes, and this seems like a great menu item to share with people. Thanks for the inspiration.

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