Monday, August 31, 2009

Jook: The Next Best Thing To A Hug From A Chinese Mama

Growing up, no other food that my parents made spelled out love better than jook, or Chinese rice porridge (also called congee). All it took was a little rice and broth or water to make comfort food at its finest. It warmed our tummies alongside noodles on weekend lunches at home. Since it's so hearty yet easy to digest, it made us feel better whenever we were sick with the flu, stomach problems, you name it. It was also traditionally a birthday food with my family--my dad explained it as "simple food that symbolizes your humble beginnings"--pretty wise, eh?

So now that I'm a Chinese Mama, jook has quickly become a staple in my household too. It's cheap, it's delicious, and it's such a feel-good food. Long gone are the days of dragging myself out of bed on a weekend morning to go to brunch in my best I-tried-really-hard-on-purpose-to-look-disheveled-yet-comfy garb. No sirree, I'm up early making jook for my family.

All you pretty much need is this: one part rice to approximately 10 parts liquid (broth, water or a combination of both) I prefer using jasmine rice, and using broth always makes jook alot more tasty than does water, though using water is handy when queasy stomachs call for the blandest of bland foods.

Put the rice in a large pot and add only about 4 to 6 parts of the liquid. Bring to a boil and lower heat to simmer and cover. After the rice simmers for a little bit, it will start to break down and look like the photo on the left.

Keep adding liquid in one to two part increments as the liquid in the pot starts to get absorbed by the rice and stir. As you near the 10-parts-liquid-part, the rice will start to look like the photo on the right. At this point, I always taste the jook for consistency before adding more liquid. Remember, you can always add more liquid but you can't take it out, so don't think that you have to use exactly 10 parts of liquid. Sometimes 8 is the magic number for me and sometimes it's 11, it all depends on how you want it and how moody your rice is on the absorbency scale that day. Another thing to keep in mind is that you can't rush jook; hearty, soul warming foods can't usually be made in 10 minutes, so be patient. Jook can sometimes take up to a couple of hours to make.

When your jook is near done, you can also add meat or other ingredients that would make it more interesting. Make jook as simple as you want, or as elaborate as you want. These days, I usually add coarsely chopped chicken thigh or beef because I'm catering to a toddler's diet, but the possibilities are really endless. Seafood makes for a really tasty jook, as do offals. My favorite jook growing up was a chicken and dried squid one; my brother's favorite contained pigs feet and boiled peanuts.

No jook is complete to me without all the condiments. At bare minimum, I've got scallions, ginger, and preserved turnip laying around for our jook meals. But it's an extra-extra-special day when I've got peanuts, thousand year old egg, deep fried bean threads, or yao zhar gwai--a deep fried cruller of sorts--to add to my jook. And oh yeah, don't forget the white pepper!

So doesn't this make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside now? Makes you wanna go hug your Chinese Mama, right? Don't have one? That's OK, just go make some jook--it's the next best thing.

27 comments:

weezermonkey said...

Totally warm and fuzzy. I ate this almost every Saturday morning growing up. My fave toppings include rousoung and yellow pickled radish.

H. C. said...

Ok, when are you throwing a jook party? 'cause I'm totally down for that! I'll even splurge and buy the dried shredded meat from 99 ranch.

But honestly, I've like jook everywhere but at home cooked by my Chinese Mama, because she insists on putting those damned ginkgo seeds (which I utterly abhor!) in them -- and no dice just spitting them out, leaving them in the bowl or having them mysteriously resurface in the trash can -- lest I want to face the wrath of the ubiquitous feather duster.

joanh said...

mm. this is what i had for lunch today! with thousand year old egg and shredded pork and a few bites of you tiou (the fried cruller)

jackt said...

i like to put some thin soy sauce or maggi seasoning in mine as well. when i was younger i put fried garlic in also.

at siam sunset they sell 2 kinds of fried dough fritters- the regular kind like in your pic, and also these small little 1 inch long ones that are more crispy all around. the little ones go really well with jook imho.

Hirono said...

Hi Pam,

Wow, what a wonderful post! Thank you for posting the instruction. I am totally craving a big bowl of the hearty jook now. I grew up eating okayu, the Japanese version of the rice porridge (usually by using the leftover broth from shabu shabu or nabe), but I've always been a fan of jook. I especially love the fish flakes and those fried cruller. Jook is Asian's version of soul food :-)

Hirono

Delicious Coma said...

I love jook! In my household, it was made by a Thai Papa and usually included tiny dried shrimp and pickled mustard greens. Nowadays I like kimchi and a fried egg. Yum.

Gastronomer said...

A fantastic post, Ms. Pam! I like my jook, or chao as we Viet call it, with pork floss. Mmm, stringy strands of weirdly dried meat.

SinoSoul said...

I love how I asked for a post and we all received. YES!

This is straight up poor people food. I'm curious how you readily had youtiou just randomly lying around?

Also, wouldn't this be easier with a rice cooker?

Aaron said...

Good to see a real Chinese mama jook recipe, DG. Is there any particular restaurant in Oakland Chinatown that has good jook too?

Diana said...

Jook is quite an enjoyable word to say and read! I think I might have to make some of this just so I can say it and write it in my own post. :) Thanks for sharing the recipe instructions!

Paul said...

you jook looks so delicious! hungry....

Elaine said...

Where in LA did you find yao zhar gwai(deep fried cruller) I have looked everywhere in Chinatown and when I tried to explain what they were no one understood!

THE ACTORS DIET said...

i grew up on this - with pickled veg and shredded pork

Ravenous Couple said...

and you say you don't cook much--this looks awesome. We love chao as it's called in Vietnamese. Great to meet you!

pleasurepalate said...

My Filipina Mama makes a similar Filipino dish but we call it arroz caldo. It's usually cooked with chicken and everyone seasons their to taste with all or a combo of green onions, white pepper, soy sauce, lemon or calamansi. :) I always feel warm and fuzzy when she makes it, especially during the winter.

Steph said...

Weird Pam! I was just reading this book called Shanghai girls, and I was at a part where they were describing Jook..and I was thinking, that sounds good! Not two minutes later I found your new blog, and what a strange coincidence!

Do you ever make jook with just veggies?

Kung Food Panda said...

Mmmmmm! I effing love this stuff! Just had some in SF Chinatown this past weekend. I think jook/congee can be eaten in any weather, anytime!! I like HC's idea of a jook party =P

nakedsushi said...

I love jook/congee when it's chilly out. I love the texture of it at restaurants, which I guess comes with using lots of water. When I make it in the rice-cooker, since I can't fit that much water in, it's just never the same.

My favorite is thousand year old egg with salted pork. There's a place in SF Chinatown that we went to recently that had some pretty damn good jook.

TasteStopipng said...

I was certain when I began reading that jook would be something that I couldn't possibly pull together, either due to tricky cooking technique or far-flung ingredients. Looks like I was wrong on both counts. I have both time and rice (although, sadly, no pigs feet or Century eggs. It seems like a great dish to use as a canvas to explore the flavor combinations you've suggested, without getting overwhelmed or frustrated. Thanks for sharing.

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Viagra Online Without Prescription said...

this is one of my next best thing to do giving a hug from this chinese mama, I really found very lovely this post.

cyndiviste said...

I am totally craving a big bowl of the hearty jook now. I grew up eating okayu, the Japanese version of the rice porridge (usually by using the leftover broth from shabu shabu or nabe), but I've always been a fan of jook. I especially love the fish flakes and those fried cruller. Jook is Asian's version of soul food Best regards


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deborahwolfram said...

this is what i had for lunch today! with thousand year old egg and shredded pork and a few bites of you tiou (the fried cruller) :) all the best


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teresereyes8294 said...

i like to put some thin soy sauce or maggi seasoning in mine as well. when i was younger i put fried garlic in also.at siam sunset they sell 2 kinds of fried dough fritters- the regular kind like in your pic, and also these small little 1 inch long ones that are more crispy all around. the little ones go really well with jook imho...

sallywede said...

My Filipina Mama makes a similar Filipino dish but we call it arroz caldo. It's usually cooked with chicken and everyone seasons their to taste with all or a combo of green onions, white pepper, soy sauce, lemon or calamansi..

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johnwhittney said...

Good to see a real Chinese mama jook recipe, DG... :)

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Chicago Weight loss said...

I’ve already bookmarked this article and will definitely refer this article to all my close friends and colleagues.

Jessica Volke said...

thank you so much! I lived in china for two years, and now ive been back in the states for about two years now, and i've been hunting down authentic chinese recipes! because OMG....do i miss chinese food! :D

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