How to Make Chinese Rice Soup: A Step-by-Step Guide

by Ella

Rice soup, a comforting and versatile dish, holds a special place in Chinese cuisine. Known for its nourishing qualities and ability to adapt to various flavor profiles, Chinese rice soup, or “zhou” as it is commonly called, is a staple that transcends regional boundaries. In this detailed guide, we will explore the art of crafting a perfect bowl of Chinese rice soup, from selecting the right rice grains to mastering the techniques of seasoning and garnishing. Whether you’re a seasoned home cook or a beginner eager to delve into the world of Chinese culinary traditions, this comprehensive tutorial will walk you through the step-by-step process of creating a delicious and satisfying rice soup.

Choosing the Right Rice

Choosing the right rice for your Chinese rice soup (congee) is important, as different types of rice can result in variations in texture and flavor. Here are a few popular choices:


Long-Grain White Rice: This is a common choice for congee. Long-grain rice tends to stay more separate when cooked, creating a lighter and fluffier texture. It’s a versatile option that works well with various toppings.


Medium-Grain Rice: Medium-grain rice can also be used for congee. It has a slightly stickier texture than long-grain rice, which can give the soup a creamier consistency.


Short-Grain Rice: Short-grain rice, like sushi rice, is stickier and more glutinous. It can be used if you prefer a thicker and more porridge-like congee. Keep in mind that short-grain rice tends to absorb more liquid.


Jasmine Rice: Jasmine rice has a fragrant aroma and a slightly sticky texture when cooked. It adds a pleasant fragrance to the congee and works well with various toppings.

Brown Rice: If you’re looking for a healthier option, you can use brown rice. Keep in mind that brown rice takes longer to cook and will result in a heartier and nuttier flavor.

When selecting rice, consider the following tips:

Rinsing: Rinsing the rice before cooking helps remove excess starch and prevents the congee from becoming too sticky. Rinse the rice under cold water until the water runs clear.

Texture Preference: Consider the texture you prefer in your congee. If you like a smoother and lighter consistency, go for long-grain rice. For a thicker and creamier congee, use medium- or short-grain rice.

Aromatic Varieties: If you enjoy a fragrant aroma in your congee, consider using aromatic rice varieties like jasmine rice.

Nutritional Preferences: Choose brown rice if you want a higher fiber content and a nuttier flavor. Keep in mind that brown rice requires a longer cooking time.

See Also: 5 Healthiest Types of Rice To Eat In 2023+6 Easy Recipes

Preparation Techniques: Rinsing, Soaking, and Parboiling

In Chinese cuisine, especially when preparing rice-based dishes like congee, rinsing, soaking, and parboiling are common techniques used to enhance the texture, remove excess starch, and improve the overall quality of the final dish. Here’s how you can incorporate these techniques into your preparation:


Rinsing rice is a crucial step before cooking, as it helps remove surface starch and prevents the grains from sticking together excessively. Here’s how to rinse rice:

Measure the desired amount of rice.

Place the rice in a fine-mesh strainer or sieve.

Rinse the rice under cold, running water while gently agitating it with your fingers.

Continue rinsing until the water runs clear. This indicates that most of the surface starch has been removed.


Soaking rice before cooking can lead to a softer texture and reduce the cooking time. This is especially helpful for long-grain and medium-grain rice. Here’s how to soak rice:

After rinsing the rice, transfer it to a bowl.

Add enough water to cover the rice by about an inch.

Allow the rice to soak for 30 minutes to a few hours. The longer soaking time can lead to softer, more tender grains.


Parboiling involves partially boiling the rice before the final cooking process. This method can help reduce the cooking time and produce a fluffier texture. Here’s how to parboil rice:

Rinse the rice thoroughly to remove surface starch.

In a pot, bring water to a boil.

Add the rinsed rice to the boiling water and cook for a short time, usually around 5 minutes.

Drain the rice and rinse it under cold water to stop the cooking process.

Proceed with your chosen cooking method, such as boiling or steaming.

These techniques are not only applicable to congee but can be used for various rice dishes. Keep in mind that the specific method you choose may depend on the type of rice you’re using and your personal preferences for texture and flavor. Adjust the techniques based on the recipe and the desired end result.

Chinese rice soup

Chinese rice soup, also known as congee or jook, is a comforting and versatile dish that can be customized with various ingredients. Here's a basic recipe for making Chinese rice soup:
Prep Time5 minutes
Active Time15 minutes
Course: Soup
Yield: 3
Cost: $3


  • 1 cup long-grain white rice
  • 8 cups water or chicken broth (you can use a combination of both)
  • Salt, to taste
  • Optional toppings and garnishes: shredded chicken, sliced green onions, chopped cilantro, sliced ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, fried garlic, and crispy fried shallots.


  • Rinse the rice under cold water until the water runs clear. This helps remove excess starch.
  • In a large pot, combine the rinsed rice and water or chicken broth.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and cover the pot with a lid. Simmer for about 1 to 1.5 hours, stirring occasionally. The longer you cook, the smoother the congee will become.
  • Add salt to taste. Keep in mind that the flavor will concentrate as the soup cooks down, so start with a small amount and adjust as needed.
  • While the rice is cooking, prepare any toppings you'd like to add. Common choices include shredded chicken, sliced green onions, chopped cilantro, sliced ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, fried garlic, and crispy fried shallots.
  • Once the rice has broken down and the soup has reached your desired consistency, ladle the congee into bowls.
  • Add your chosen toppings and garnishes to the individual bowls. You can customize each serving based on personal preferences.

Flavorful Additions

To enhance the flavor of your Chinese rice soup (congee), you can incorporate various flavorful additions. Here are some common and tasty options:

Ginger: Add thinly sliced or julienned fresh ginger to the congee for a fragrant and slightly spicy kick.

Garlic: Include minced or sliced garlic for a savory and aromatic flavor. You can sauté the garlic in a bit of oil before adding it to the congee for a richer taste.

Soy Sauce: Drizzle a bit of soy sauce into the congee for a savory and umami flavor. Be mindful of the salt content, especially if you’re using store-bought broth.

Sesame Oil: A small amount of toasted sesame oil can add a nutty and rich flavor to the congee. Drizzle it on top just before serving.

Green Onions (Scallions): Finely chopped green onions add a fresh and mild onion flavor. Sprinkle them on top of the congee just before serving.

Cilantro: Chopped cilantro can contribute a bright and citrusy flavor. Add it as a garnish for a burst of freshness.

Fried Shallots or Garlic: Crispy fried shallots or garlic provide a crunchy texture and a deep, savory flavor. Sprinkle them on top just before serving.

Sesame Seeds: Toasted sesame seeds add a nutty crunch and enhance the overall flavor profile. Sprinkle them over the congee as a finishing touch.

Protein Options: Consider adding cooked and shredded chicken, sliced pork, or even seafood like shrimp or fish. These protein additions not only add flavor but also make the congee more filling.

Preserved Eggs or Century Eggs: For a unique and traditional twist, add sliced preserved eggs or century eggs. They have a distinct flavor that pairs well with congee.

Dried Shrimp or Dried Scallops: These dried seafood options can impart a rich umami flavor to the congee. Soak them before adding to ensure they rehydrate during cooking.

Feel free to mix and match these flavorful additions based on your preferences.

Techniques for Cooking Perfect Rice Soup: Stovetop and Beyond

Traditional Stovetop Method: The classic stovetop method involves simmering the rice in the prepared broth until it reaches the desired consistency. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking and ensure even cooking.

Rice Cooker Convenience: Utilizing a rice cooker streamlines the cooking process, providing an effortless and hands-free approach. Simply combine the rinsed rice and broth in the rice cooker, press the button, and let the appliance do the work.

Instant Pot Efficiency: The Instant Pot has become a kitchen favorite for its speed and versatility. To make Chinese rice soup in an Instant Pot, combine all ingredients, set the pressure, and let the appliance create a savory and aromatic meal in a fraction of the time.

Regional Variations: Exploring Diverse Chinese Rice Soup Styles

Cantonese Congee: Cantonese-style congee is characterized by its smooth, porridge-like consistency. Often served with a variety of savory or sweet toppings, this style of rice soup is a breakfast favorite in Southern China.

Zhejiang-Style Rice Soup: Zhejiang province’s rice soup is celebrated for its simplicity and reliance on high-quality ingredients. Delicate flavors and precise preparation methods define this regional variation.

Sichuan-Style Spicy Rice Soup: Sichuan cuisine is renowned for its bold and spicy flavors, and the rice soup from this region is no exception. Infused with Sichuan peppercorns and chili, it provides a tingling sensation that delights the palate.


In the realm of Chinese cuisine, rice soup stands as a testament to culinary artistry and cultural richness. Whether you prefer the silky consistency of Cantonese congee, the bold flavors of Sichuan-style rice soup, or the simplicity of Zhejiang’s offerings, the versatility of this dish allows for endless creativity in the kitchen.

By understanding the nuances of rice selection, preparation techniques, and regional variations, you can embark on a flavorful journey that transcends the boundaries of a simple bowl of soup. Chinese rice soup is more than just sustenance; it’s an embodiment of tradition, innovation, and the joy of savoring a bowlful of comfort that nourishes both body and soul. As you embark on your culinary adventure, may each spoonful of Chinese rice soup bring you closer to the heart of this time-honored and cherished dish.



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