kayu (粥)

Kayu (porridge) is a dish made by boiling grains such as rice seeds, foxtail millet and buckwheat, beans or potatoes in a large quantity of water until they become soft.
Many elderly people call it 'okayu-san.'
The clear liquid on top of kayu is called omoyu (rice water).

Summary

Kayu is a dish that can be cooked easily if one has grains, water, a source of heat and a single pot. It is easy to digest and warms the body, so it is often eaten when suffering from conditions affecting the stomach or intestines, or from an illness such as a cold. It is also used as a baby food. It is essential as a main staple of shojin ryori (vegetarian cuisine originally derived from the dietary restrictions of Buddhist monks). A not insignificant number of people eat it for breakfast, and it is sometimes served for breakfast at hotel restaurants.

Other than Japan, porridge is also commonly eaten in Southeast Asian countries including Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. It is found not only in Asian countries such the People's Republic of China and the Korean peninsula but also in Europe and Africa. In the French region of Brittany, buckwheat porridge has been a staple food of the common people since ancient times. In the central and northern Europe, where there is a custom of eating the largest meal of the day at lunchtime, congee is often served as a light supper. In Germany, congees made of oatmeal, buckwheat, rice and semolina are called grain soups, and they are eaten by adding butter, sugar, cinnamon, raisins, fruit compotes and nuts. In Russia, there is a type of porridge called kasha. Milk porridge, sweetened by adding sugar, can be found in a wide range of areas including South Asia, West Asia, the Middle East, Europe and North Africa. For example, in Spanish-speaking countries, it is served as 'arroz con leche,' and it is often eaten as a snack favored mainly by children. If the water content is reduced, a porridge becomes a pudding, and if it is increased it becomes closer to a soup.

In Japan, until the custom of giving out soba to new neighbors after a house move (hikkoshi soba) began during the Edo period, people would distribute kayu after moving.

Classification based on the cooking method

Iregayu

This is a kayu made by first cooking rice in the usual amount of water. The rice is then cooked again in twice the volume of boiled water to rice. This is a cooking method use to prepare kayu from leftover rice. It is easy to make but it tends to produce more oneba (sticky paste), and it is not as flavorful compared to takigayu (cooked thin rice porridge).

Takigayu

This is a kayu made by cooking uncooked rice, and there are different names depending on the ratio of rice to water. In the case of chagayu (tea porridge) mentioned later the rice tends not to break apart even when stirred. However, in shirogayu (white rice porridge), stirring makes the grains of rice fall apart, producing oneba and making the kayu less flavorful. Therefore, it is preferable not to stir it very much. It is said that the rice should be cooked over a high heat, allowing the grains of rice to move naturally, but without the liquid boiling over.

Classification based on the amount of water

Note: It seems that there are many kayu dishes made with different ratios of rice to water even when they have the same name. Looking for detailed explanation by people who have a thorough knowledge of kayu.

Zengayu

Kayu cooked using five times the amount of water to rice.

Shichibugayu

Kayu cooked using seven times the amount of water to rice.

Gobugayu

Kayu cooked using ten times the amount of water to rice.

Sanbugayu

Kayu cooked using twenty times the amount of water to rice.

Classification based on ingredients and seasoning

Shiragayu

Made by boiling rice in water without any other ingredients. It is common for no seasoning to be used but sometimes a small amount of salt is added. It is often eaten with various toppings such as tsukemono (Japanese pickled vegetables), umeboshi (pickled plums), shiokara (salted fish entrails), shirasuboshi (dried young sardines), tsukudani (various ingredients such as seafood and seaweed cooked in sweetened soy sauce) and peanuts.

Kuromaigayu

Made by boiling black rice.

Chagayu

Made by boiling rice in hojicha tea (roasted green tea).

Gyunyugayu/Mirukugayu

Made by boiling rice in milk. It becomes rice pudding when it is sweetened.

Araregayu

A dish consisting of dashi stock poured over rice kayu, and it is topped with sliced pieces of fish such as sea bream.

Imogayu

Made by cooking yam or sweet potato in rice kayu.

Kasha (Russian: Каша)

A Russian and Eastern European porridge made from grains such as oats, rice, semolina, buckwheat and millet.

Bubur

A Malaysian and Indonesian porridge made with white or black rice. Besides rice, it can be made with beans, and it can also be sweet.

Joke, Kao Dom

A Thai rice porridge seasoned with egg and ginger. Sometimes meat is added.

Porridge

Made by boiling grains in water or milk. It is eaten by adding cream, butter or sugar. The most common variety is made with oatmeal and semolina (cream of wheat). Porridge can also be made using wheat, barley, rice, cornmeal or peasemeal.

Gruel

Thinner than a porridge, it is made using only water and is known as porridge or 'omoyu' in Japanese,

Polenta

A northern Italian dish made by boiling and stirring a mixture of coarsely ground cornmeal with water or broth. Maize porridge is known as žganci in Croatia, Mămăligă in Romania and mush in North America.

Ugali

An eastern, southern and northern African dish made with cornmeal or cassava flour. It becomes kayu-like if lots of water is used.

Pap

A South African porridge made of cornmeal.

Arroz con Leche

A milk porridge sweetened with sugar in Spanish-speaking countries.

Names for Chinese congee
In China, the word 'zhou' is used to refer to porridge in general, while rice porridge is known by names including 'da mi zhou,' 'xi fan' or 'mi.'
There are regions in which thin congee similar to sanbugayu is treated as a soup and called 'mi tang' or 'liao ming tang.'
How long the congee is cooked for differs depending on the region. In Guangdong Province it is often cooked until the grains have lost half of their shape. It is often the case that the rice in Chinese congee does not retain its shape unlike Japanese kayu.

Chinese congee

Chinese-style rice porridge.
In addition to plain congee, it is often cooked in a stock made from chicken or conpoy (the adductor muscles of Japanese scallops or tairagi shellfish that have been boiled and sun-dried)
The amount of water used is about the same as that used to make Japanese gobugayu. Various ingredients are added to congee including fish, oysters, beef, chicken, cuttlefish, beansprouts, peanuts, century egg (preserved egg) and chicken egg. Ginger and spring onions are used as condiments, and you tiao (deep-fried dough) as an accompaniment.

Foxtail millet congee

A congee made from foxtail millet, and eaten often in Huabei, China. It is called 'xiao mi zhou' in Chinese. In Shanxi Province 'xi zhou' (thin congee) means awagayu, and 'chou zhou' (thick congee) or 'gan zhou' (dry congee) refer to millet that has been boiled like rice.

Mung bean porridge

An unsweetened porridge made with mung beans, which is often eaten in China and the Korean Peninsula. It is called 'lu dou zhou' in Chinese.

Azuki bean porridge

An unsweetened porridge made with azuki beans, which is often eaten in China and the Korean Peninsula. It is called 'hong dou zhou' in Chinese and 'patjuk' in Korean. Rice flour dumplings are sometimes added to patjuk.

Ba Bao Zhou (Eight treasure congee)

A sweet dish common in China, which is made by adding eight ingredients such as beans and jujube to a rice congee.

Varieties eaten on special occasions

Nanakusagayu (Kayu with seven herbs)

A dish made with seven herbs (the seven herbs of spring), which are seri (Japanese parsley), nazuna (shepherd's purse), gogyo (Jersey cudweed), hakobe (common chickweed), hotoke no za (henbit), suzuna (turnip) and suzushiro (daikon), that are boiled, chopped and mixed into a rice kayu. It is customarily eaten on January 7.

Azukigayu (Azuki bean kayu)

Also known as sakuragayu. Made with azuki beans, which have been cooked until soft, boiled with rice. It is customarily eaten during Koshogatsu (little New Year) (January 15). When it is eaten on Koshogatsu, mochi (rice cake) pieces from kagamibiraki (the custom of cutting the New Year's rice cake on January 11) are added. The patjuk azuki bean porridge of the Korean Peninsula is eaten during the winter solstice.

La Ba Zhou (Laba congee)

Eaten in China on December 8 (lunar calendar), this is a congee containing ingredients such as rice, beans, chestnuts, jujube and nuts.

Dishes incorporating porridge

Zukdai Fowo (Congee hot pot)

A specialty of Shunde, Guangdong Province. A hot pot dish in which various ingredients are added to a pot of porridge instead of stock, cooked and eaten.

Vacuum packed food:

There are various types of kayu available in vacuum packs.

Freeze dried kayu:

This is an instant food item from which kayu is made by adding hot water.

Canned goods:

There are various types of canned kayu.