Ham bone + rice + water = Ham Congee, aka Chinese Ham Bone Rice Soup. This is my favourite ham bone recipe – slow cooked until the rice breaks down, the meat is falling off the bone, and the broth is beautifully flavoured. Slow cooker, pressure cooker or stovetop – I use all 3 methods!
While the Western world goes bonkers over the vision of a glistening baked ham ready for carving, the Chinese are rubbing their hands with glee at the thought of the ham bone. Because this recipe is not just something I made up – though I wouldn’t blame you for thinking so.
Chinese Ham Bone Rice Soup is a “thing”. It’s called “Congee” in Chinese, and it’s the source of much discussion over who gets the ham bone from our own Christmas ham – or a pact to use it for a Family Meal – as well as smug announcements when one is able to secure extra leftover ham bones.
I secured two extra ham bones post Christmas 2017. *She says smugly, and proudly*
But in case you aren’t so lucky / as good at wheedling, and for all other times of the year, store bought ham hocks are ideal for this recipe. (It’s actually better because because it isn’t picked clean!)
SO – WHAT IS CONGEE?
It’s a white Chinese rice soup / porridge that’s made by slow cooking rice in broth until it breaks down and thickens the soup. It’s mostly rice and broth with just little bits of stuff in it – usually fish and chicken – so it’s highly economical.
The consistency varies from a soft, porridge-like consistency which has a lovely creamy mouth feel, to a more runny texture which is more like liquid broth with soft rice bits in it. In case you didn’t read between the lines, I’m not a fan of watery/runny Congee!
In China and Hong Kong, Congee is typically served for breakfast with big, puffy deep fried bread sticks for dunking, but I usually have it for dinner (no puffy fried bread sticks!).
The key to a great Congee is the broth, and hence why the Chinese go mad over leftover ham bones. It makes an incredible broth – no other flavourings needed.
BE WARNED: THIS IS CRAZY EASY!!
Place rice, lots of water, and ham bone in a pot, slow cooker or pressure cooker. Shred ham, return to pot, simmer a bit more.
That’s it. Yes, it really is that easy.
I exaggerate not when I say I think this is the ultimate 3 ingredient meal!
STOVE, SLOW COOKER, PRESSURE COOKER
This is a recipe that can be made on the stove, in the slow cooker or pressure cooker. It’s ideal for all 3, and I use all 3 methods. Pressure cooker means I can have it tonight, slow cooker if I’m out all day or if it’s a giant bone. And in winter on the stove, almost always.
As for garnishes, at the very least, I like to sprinkle with some chopped green onions. Something crunchy like Asian Fried Shallots (pictured) or even Chang’s crunchy fried noodles is terrific. Chinese Congee shops typically serve it with strips of crispy fried wonton skins.
So technically, I use more than 3 ingredients. Don’t crucify me! 😂 – Nagi x
WATCH HOW TO MAKE IT
Recipe video above. The ham version of the traditional Chinese rice soup known as Congee - Rice slow cooked until it breaks down to thicken the broth flavoured with ham bone. Every year, the Chinese fight over leftover Christmas ham bones to make this! 🙂 But actually, using a store bought ham hock is safer - see note 1.
- 1 kg / 2 lb ham bone / hock (Note 1)
- 1 1/4 cups long grain white rice (uncooked)
- 9 cups / 2.25 L / 2.25 QT water
- Salt & white pepper
- Finely sliced green onion
- Fried asian shallots / onions or something else crunchy , optional (Note 2)
- Sesame oil , optional
Place bone, rice and water in a large pot, slow cooker or pressure cooker. Cover with lid.
Cook using preferred method (times below), or until meat on ham is tender enough to shred.
Remove ham from soup, shred meat. Discard fatty / thick skin and sinew, keep bone. Use scissors if needed to chop meat.
Stir rice well, then return meat AND bone into soup.
Cook using preferred method, until rice is broken down and soup has a porridge like consistency - see video.
Remove bone. Stir vigorously, then adjust consistency with water if desired. Or simmer uncovered if necessary to thicken. Adjust salt to taste (I usually just need a pinch), add a dash of pepper.
Serve rice soup garnished with green onions, a sprinkle of Asian Fried Shallots and drizzle of sesame oil.
Storage tip: Return bone into the soup, it continues to add flavour.
Stove: Simmer on low for 1 3/4 - 2 hours (no stirring), shred meat, then on low for 30 minutes, stirring every now and then.
Slow Cooker: Low for 8 hours, shred meat, then low for 1 - 2 hours.
Pressure Cooker: High for 50 minutes, shred meat, then high for 15 minutes or 20 minutes on sauté function.
** Scale recipe based on your ham bone weight using the recipe scaler - click on Servings and slide **
1. If you're using a leftover ham bone, you do need to ensure there's plenty of meat left on it. It's not so much about having enough ham bits in the soup, it's about flavouring the broth.
It's safer to make this using a store bought ham bone because it comes with plenty of ham and a thick layer of smoked skin which adds plenty of flavour to the broth.
Note ham hocks are mostly bone and fatty skin which is discarded - about 60 to 70% on average.
2. Congee is traditionally served with strips of crispy fried wonton skin as a garnish. I never bother at home - instead I use store bought Asian fried shallots or onions which not only add the crisp factor, they add flavour and little pops of salt too.
3. General tips:
- Ensure the bone is mostly submerged - if not, it may require turning during cooking because the part submerged in the broth cooks faster. Also, exposed ham = less flavour in rice, so you may need to cook a bit longer post returning shredded meat into rice to infuse more flavour into the broth.
- This recipe yields a congee with a generous amount of ham per serving. Normal shop bought congee is mostly rice and soup with just a tiny bit of stuff (fish or chicken usually). I have a higher ratio of ham to rice to ensure you get good ham flavour in the broth. You could add another 1/4 cup of rice and 1 3/4 cups water, to stretch it out more, but I wouldn't do more than that.
- The broth gets infused with more flavour once the shredded meat and bone is returned to the soup for the 2nd phase of cooking.
- Careful of over salting, the ham continues to leech salt into the broth when the soup is sitting around.
4. Make ahead - ham has a good shelf life, so I feel comfortable keeping it in the fridge for even 5 days. It will congeal but loosen up when reheated Add a touch of water to loosen. I haven't tried freezing it.
5. Complete the meal by adding vegetables into the soup. eg. add stems of Chinese vegetables chopped into spoonable sizes and cook until tender (or cook separately and divide into bowls, top with soup), then stir the leafy bits in just before serving. You could do the same with spinach too.
6. Nutrition per serving, assuming 5 servings - about 2.5 cups per serving. Excludes toppings.
LIFE OF DOZER
When he escaped my clutches….
PS Don’t worry, they’re doggie cupcakes and yes, I promise to do the recipe soon!