Bring 2 cups of water to boil. I like using an electric kettle to speed up the process. Then, pour the hot water into a bowl.
Quickly rinse the dried shiitake mushrooms. Next, add the mushrooms to the hot water and let them soak for 30 to 45 minutes.
Transfer the rice, shiitake mushrooms, and the water used for soaking the mushrooms to a large pot. Next, add the remaining 2 cups of water, vegetable broth, lemongrass, ginger slices, and salt to the pot.
Cover the pot with a lid and bring everything to boil. Then, reduce the heat to low. I usually move the pot to a smaller burner at this stage. Let the congee simmer for 1 hour. Make sure to check the congee occasionally to ensure that it doesn’t boil over.
After an hour, uncover the lid. The congee might look very watery at this point, and that’s okay. Give everything a stir. Turn off the heat and cover the pot with the lid again, leaving it slightly ajar. Let the congee cool for 15 to 20 minutes. The congee thickens as it cools.
If after 20 minutes, the congee is still looking very watery, turn the heat back on to low and simmer the congee simmer for another 15 minutes.
Remove the mushrooms, lemongrass, ginger, and garlic from the pot, if you like. Serve the congee in bowls and add your favorite toppings. You can slice up the mushrooms and eat them, if you want. I prefer sautéing fresh shiitake mushrooms and serving them with the congee.
Instant Pot Method
Transfer the rice, shiitake mushrooms, and the water used for soaking the mushrooms into the bowl of the Instant Pot. Next, add the remaining 2 cups of water, vegetable broth, lemongrass, ginger slices, and salt.
Secure the Instant Pot with the lid. Then, select “MANUAL” and let the Instant Pot cook at high pressure for 30 minutes.
Once the congee is done cooking, let the pressure naturally release, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Double check that the pressure has released before opening the lid. You’ll notice that the congee is watery, and that’s okay. Give everything a stir and hit “CANCEL” to turn off the Instant Pot. Loosely cover the Instant Pot with the lid, leaving it slightly ajar. Let the porridge cool for 15 to 20 minutes so that the rice can absorb more liquid and the congee can thicken.
Remove the mushrooms, lemongrass, ginger, and garlic from the pot, if you like. Serve the congee in bowls and add your favorite toppings.
I typically use Better Than Bouillon to make stock. First, I boil 5 cups of water in my electric kettle. Then, I pour it into a bowl and mix it with 4 to 5 teaspoons of the Better Than Bouillon paste. It’s okay if the paste doesn’t dissolve completely because it will do so as the congee cooks.
Vegetable broths have varying levels of sodium. Start with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. Then, taste the congee when it’s done and add more salt, if necessary. Note that you may serve the congee with soy sauce, so the congee itself doesn’t need to be too salty.
In my photos, I sautéed fresh shiitake mushrooms separately and used them to top my porridge. I find reconstituted shiitake mushrooms to be too chewy, so I don’t usually eat them. If you want more mushroom flavor in the congee, you can also add 1 to 2 teaspoons of porcini mushroom powder.
Youtiao are large fried dough sticks that are usually served with congee. I buy mine frozen from Asian supermarkets and heat them in the oven at 400ºF for 15 minutes, flipping halfway.