Like a true blue Chinese, I tend to avoid cold, sugary bowls of cereal in the morning for breakfast. We believe that eating cold food in general impairs our digestive system and, over time, will lead to a decline in our health since we are less able to absorb nutrients from our food. So instead of dousing my tummy early in the morning with a bowl of cold milk, I usually opt for something hot.
Porridge oats is something you will see me eating quite often, but now and then I will want something different–something more nutritious. This Eight Treasure Porridge (八宝粥) is my answer. It is both hearty and nutritious, and you can prepare a bigger batch in advance to last a few days so that all you have to do in the morning is heat it up.
While called a porridge, it is actually a congee made with all varieties of rice, legumes and nuts. You can easily customise it to your taste or to whatever you have available in your pantry. It is a great breakfast alternative to the usual cereal or toast since it is very filling and yet easily digestible. It is not refined like white bread and is loaded with fiber and naturally chock-full of nutrients!
While there is literally zero preparation for this recipe, it does takes a while to cook so I usually make enough to last me about 3 days. Alternatively, you can just make a bigger batch and share the goodness with your family!
Common ingredients include white rice, black rice, glutinous rice (both white and black), barley, buckwheat, oats, millet, red beans, green beans, lotus seeds, walnuts, peanuts and whatever you want to put in basically! You are definitely not limited to just 8 ingredients.
From the Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, the idea is to have at least one ingredient from each of the 5 colours: red, green, yellow, white, black. These 5 colours correspond to the 5 vital organs in TCM theory: heart, liver, spleen, lungs, kidney. Even if you don’t subscribe to TCM theory, eating a wide variety of different coloured foods is also considered beneficial in Western medicine since it maximises the types of nutrients that you get.
Two ingredients I always use are red dates and goji berries. Red dates are sweet and they help to tonify the blood (补血). It is especially beneficial to us girls since it helps with anemia and is something you can consider eating on a more regular basis, especially after that time of the month. Goji berries has in recent years been labelled a “superfood” by the Western world. While some of the claims made seem like hyperbole to me, in TCM, at least, goji berries are known for being beneficial for the eyes. A friend once told me that after his siblings ate goji berries on a daily basis for a period of time, their myopia stabilised, whereas before that, it increased by 50-100 degrees every year.
I usually like my porridge a little sweet so I add honey and sometimes even a splash of milk. You can also have it savoury by adding some salt.
Note. The porridge in my picture turned out quite black as I used only black rice and no white rice.
1/2 cup Black rice (black–kidney)
1/2 cup Rice (white-lungs)
1/4 cup Red beans (red–heart)
1/4 cup Green beans (green–liver)
1/4 cup Barley (white–lungs)
2T Lotus seeds (white–lungs)
2T Red dates (red–heart)
2T Goji berries (red–heart)
2T Dried longan (yellow–spleen)
- Bring everything in a pot to boil and then simmer for 1.5 – 2h or till soft.
- Sweeten with rock sugar/honey if necessary.