Can we eat this? Congee edition.
June 21, 2019 3:45 AM   Subscribe

My boyfriend just finished cooking up a batch of congee. I went to try a spoonful and noticed something which didn't belong floating on top - a small piece of charcoal. Can we still eat this?

The facts:

The congee mix base is rice, beans, kibbled corn, oats and peanuts. I buy the ingredients separately and then mix them together in differing ratios. We also add stock powder, dried shiitake mushrooms, some spices.

The congee cooks in a rice cooker for approximately two hours.

The charcoal was approximately the size of a large kidney bean.

I spooned through the congee and could not find anything else unusual.

There is no reason for charcoal to be in the house.

I have never noticed charcoal in any of the ingredients when I was preparing them and my boyfriend did not notice it when he was putting the ingredients into the rice cooker.

The only thing I could think of is, is it possible that the shiitake mushrooms came with charcoal in some form (in a small sachet?) as a moisture absorber? Does such a thing exist? However, I am pretty sure that I removed a moisture absorber from the shiitake mushroom packet before transferring the mushrooms into a container, so I think this is an unlikely possibility.

The main question though: Can we eat this? I am kind of freaked out by this coal of mystery origin and don't really want to die today.
posted by kinddieserzeit to Food & Drink (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I would eat it. Wood Charcoal is just the carbon leftover after slowly heating wood sticks, so I wouldn't worry about it being poisonous.

In all likelihood, it did come from the mushrooms as charcoal is one of the methods producers use to dry shiitake mushrooms.
posted by Karaage at 3:50 AM on June 21, 2019 [5 favorites]


Sometimes in dried grains and beans there are little pebbles and sticks that make it through the sorting process - it's good practice to spread it out on a sheetpan and look for anything like that before rinsing and cooking, especially if you're buying from somewhere like a bulk goods aisle. But I agree that it could also have hitchhiked along with the mushrooms, too. Either way, I'd totally eat it. Your congee boiled, for a pretty long time, right? You won't die.
posted by Mizu at 3:54 AM on June 21, 2019


You can buy charcoal filled capsules at drugstores. They are sold to cure some digestive ills. I've taken them.
posted by rudd135 at 4:34 AM on June 21, 2019 [1 favorite]


Yeah if you’re pretty sure it’s charcoal then that’s basically food safe after being cooked, and the mushroom drying angle fits well. I’d eat it and enjoy!
posted by SaltySalticid at 4:50 AM on June 21, 2019


About the only downside of charcoal (though I think just the activated medicinal kind) is that it binds to a lot of substances. Good when you ate something you shouldn't, bad if you eat it with medication or less than four hours before. But that's for a sizeable dose of charcoal, not just trace particles in the congee.

Also, I'd love the recipe for that congee, or at least the proportions of the ingredients!
posted by I claim sanctuary at 5:05 AM on June 21, 2019 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: Thanks everyone. We ate some of it a couple of hours ago and have had no issues so far.

I'll try to remember to come back tomorrow and post the recipe.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 6:21 AM on June 21, 2019 [2 favorites]


Response by poster: My congee mix is an experiment each time I make it and I won't pretend it's authentic!

The current mix is basically:

* 1 cup medium grain rice
* 1.25 cups glutenous rice (black or white)
* Half cup peanuts
* Quarter cup mung beans
* Quarter cup adzuki beans
* Quarter cup kibbled corn
* Quarter cup oats

(I use the cup which goes with the rice cooker, not standard cups when mixing it)

My rice cooker has a soup/porridge setting. I never cook more than 1.5 cups of the congee mix at a time, because when I tried it didn't seem to heat up.

Fill rice cooker to just below the recommended amount of water for the amount of congee mix. I season with veg stock powder, vegan chicken style stock powder, onion and garlic powder, white pepper, red pepper powder, vegan "fish" sauce. Start rice cooker on soup setting. Once it is done, check it. If beans are undercooked or the congee is more watery than I would like, I put it onto quick cook setting for about 10 minutes and then it's usually good.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 4:01 AM on June 22, 2019 [2 favorites]


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