Simple and easy homemade Japanese rice porridge recipe. All you need is water and rice. Garnish with scallions, salted salmon, and nori, this homey, comforting dish will sure to keep you nourished and the chill at bay.
At this time of year when the cold and flu season is at its peak, my children usually take turns to bring home a few rounds of sicknesses from school. Last weekend we caught a cold traveling back from Utah and our whole family came down with fever and coughs.
We didn’t have much of an appetite, so I decided to make some warm Japanese Rice Porridge (Okayu) for the family. It is the most comforting Japanese cold remedy that I depend on to tackle the weak stomach.
Japanese Rice Porridge – A Healing Food
Rice Porridge, or we call it Okayu (お粥), is a simple dish made with rice and water. The rice is simmered in a pot with water until the mixture disintegrates. As the rice is tender soft and easily digestible, it is known as a healing food in Japan. We usually serve Okayu to people who are recovering from sickness, the elderly, or babies.
For those of you who are familiar with Chinese foods, you’d probably know that rice porridge (or congee) is very much enjoyed in many different ways. Some versions come with protein and assorted ingredients, and they are perfect for lunch or dinner.
Contrary to that, the Japanese don’t eat porridge as frequently as the Chinese do as a regular meal. In the case of Okayu, it is served specifically as a healing food – to soothe the body and to restore energy. You’ll find the toppings rather simple so the meal itself is light and mild tasting.
How to Make Japanese Rice Porridge
In this recipe, I use a 1:5 rice-to-water ratio to yield a thicker consistency. We refer to this ratio as zen-gayu (全粥). You could add more water for a lighter porridge. There is even a whole range of rice-to-water ratios that the Japanese follow, and each one comes with a specific name. You could read more on this in the Recipe Note below.
Sometimes we cook the rice porridge in dashi (Japanese soup stock), chicken stock, or miso to flavor the broth. For extra substance and nutrients, feel free to serve it with salted salmon, egg or pickled plum. However, I made today’s rice porridge very basic and plain so you can enjoy it with optional toppings.
Cooking Rice Porridge with Donabe (Earthenware Pot)
We use a donabe, the Japanese earthenware pot when making the rice porridge for the people we care for. It is a traditional way of preparing the dish as the pot cooks the porridge evenly and retains the heat well.
I suppose you can use a rice cooker or a regular pot to make the porridge, but donabe has always been the preferred method.
I hope you give this Japanese home remedy a try when you’re under the weather, or in need of something light and healthy.
Japanese Ingredient Substitution: If you want to look for substitutes for Japanese condiments and ingredients, click here.
Japanese Rice Porridge (Okayu)
- ¼ cup uncooked Japanese short-grain rice
- 250 ml water (1 cup + 2 tsp)
- Gather all the ingredients. I follow the 1 to 5 rice-to-water ratio for my Okayu recipe.
- Rinse the rice in water, then drain. Repeat until the water runs clear.
- Soak the rice in the pot for at least 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, drain the water completely.
- Then add 250 ml of water into the pot.
- Cover the pot and bring to a boil over high heat.
- When boiling, lower the heat to the stove’s lowest setting (make sure to use the right size of stove burner for your pot size). Open the lid and gently mix with the spoon once, making sure rice is not stuck to the bottom of the pot.
- Cover the lid and simmer the rice for 30 minutes (Tip: With a good size pot and the lowest heat on the stove, the water should not boil over. If you cook with more water or your pot is smaller than my pot, you may want to cover the lid at a slight angle so the water doesn’t boil over). During this time, I never open the lid or mix the rice. (Tip: If you are worried, you can take a quick peek and make sure there’s enough water so the rice doesn’t burn the bottom of the pot. If necessary, you can stir the pot or add “hot” water. Otherwise, don’t touch the rice because you would end up breaking the nice shape of rice kernels.)
- After 30 minutes, turn off the heat and let it steam for 10 minutes. The rice should be soft and thickened. If you want to add something, like a beaten egg or salt, this is the time to add. I keep this recipe plain and simple. Serve into the individual rice bowls and garnish and put toppings of your choice.
- Zen-gayu – 1 : 5 (50 grams : 250 ml)
- Shichibu-gayu – 1 : 7 (50 grams : 350 ml)
- Gobu-gayu – 1 :10 (50 grams : 500 ml)
- Sanbu-gayu – 1 : 20 (25 grams : 500 ml)
- donabe (earthenware pot) or heavy-bottomed pot
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Editor’s Note: The post was originally published on January 30, 2013. The content has been updated in March 2020.