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Rice gruel: your companion for the aftermath of the Holidays

With the end of year celebrations, we have many opportunities to have good meals with family and friends. We sometimes drink and eat more than necessary and the aftermath of the holidays can sometimes be difficult “…to digest”. For some this results in stomach aches or headaches, bloating, difficulty digesting, sometimes loss of appetite, etc. I don't want to look like a killjoy but rather to offer you a way to improve your digestive state for the days that follow by means of a super simple dish: rice porridge. And maybe, who knows, you will be inspired to take care of your intestinal flora all year round?

What is rice gruel? Call it what you want: rice gruel, rice porridge, congee, jook or zhou. It is simply rice cooked in a lot of water for a long time. You might say to yourself: “who wants to eat bland rice cooked in water”. Not so fast…let me explain. Your digestive system is called the “Center” in Chinese medicine (and there’s a reason for that). Made up of the stomach and the spleen, it receives food, circulates it and transforms it into a source of useful nutrients for the whole body. Rice porridge has several benefits as it is:

  • consumed hot;

  • full of liquid;

  • easy to digest; and

  • made from rice, which is mild in flavour and lukewarm in nature.

Sweetness nourishes the spleen and warmth allows it to function in the best possible way. In addition, this organ does not like to work too hard to process food. Now you see the many benefits of this dish. This is why it has been known and used in Chinese food for millennia and also cited in the reference books of Chinese medicine.

Besides what has just been said, what makes rice gruel so interesting to eat is its simplicity. This dish can be accommodated in a thousand of ways to meet everyone's needs and pleasures. It can help boost immunity, combat colds, allow food intake and assimilation for those who cannot eat solid foods, or promote recovery during remission. It is has even been part of the treatment against Covid-19 in China in some cases (as mentioned in a previous post here, in French). In the classics of Chinese medicine, the ability to swallow rice gruel is even described as a criterion of life or death in certain pathological conditions.

The therapeutic effect of rice gruel may be different depending on what is added to it and I usually offer it initially "plain", with some success, to my patients who suffer from varied intestinal problems or who could strongly benefit from it for other reasons. And it is at breakfast that it takes on its full meaning because it allows the body to start the day gently and warmly, as one would start a physical activity in a gentle and progressive manner.

So if you are convinced, here is how to make your rice gruel. You will see, it is so simple! You'll need:

  • a portion of rice; and

  • ten portions of water.

Combine the ingredients and cook them over low heat in a stainless steel pan. Depending on the amount of water you add, the type and quality of rice you use, the intensity of the heat source and the cooking time, you will get a variable consistency of porridge. It's up to you to experience and choose what appeals to you the most. But my experience is that cooking for at least an hour will be necessary to render the grain shapeless while it has absorbed all the water it can, to point of being disintegrated. The cooking time may be pushed well beyond, up to several hours.

You can supplement the rice gruel, for example with a hard-boiled egg, a little bit of soy sauce, spring onions and sesame seeds for breakfast. Add a few pieces of previously cooked meat and sautéed vegetables to have a slightly more substantial dish. You can easily replace the water with broth (preferably homemade). Freedom is key. Without ever losing sight of the fact that:

  • the more the gruel remains simple and "natural", the more it will fulfill its original function; and

  • any ingredient has an effect on the body due to its nature, its flavor and the organ(s) it influences.

Choose local and organic foods, because food is your first medicine. You will find lots of ideas, I am sure (which you will share, I hope). And for more therapeutic applications, do not hesitate to ask your specialist for advice. And now: bon appétit! And especially...


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