Saturday, August 13, 2011

Jook: A Story and a Recipe

jook recipe

This week, our household unexpectedly came down with a cold, or as Sarah says “I feel gooey.” I think that’s how I feel too. Plus my eyeballs are burning. Bleh.

My gooey (or is that goofy) girls:

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My mom’s cure for the gooeys is “Jook”…also known as rice porridge or congee. To me, nothing is more comforting. It not only helps with the gooeys, but tummy troubles and even heartache. At least it does for me.

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I never knew how to make jook until recently. In the past when I’d ask my mom to teach me, she’d say “Oh it’s easy you just put in the rice and blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.” Note: the blah blah blah is where my eyes would glaze over.

In our earlier years of marriage when we lived in the city, we could buy jook from a number of local restaurants. And I remembered a slight feeling of failure that I had to run to a restaurant to get their version of MSG-filled jook instead of being able to make it from scratch for when my husband came down with the gooeys himself.

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As for my girls, we had a Chinese babysitter who made jook for them. My girls didn’t have their first teeth until age 13 months, so she would grind jook further in a food processor along with veggies, a little bit of chicken, and a spoonful of love. Maybe that’s why they heart jook so much.

For some reason, it recently clicked in my head and now I think I get it. I don’t know why I found it to be such an enigma before. At the same time, it’s not a clear-cut recipe that everyone does differently; it just depends on how you were taught, and perhaps from what region your family originated.

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It might just be because I’ve gotten better at cooking in the past year just from practice, after becoming a stay-at-home mama and spending more time in the kitchen. It might also be because this is the first kitchen that I felt was truly “mine” (history: I moved in with my husband and his already established kitchen, then I was 30 weeks pregnant when we moved into our next home so he set that up again, but in our current home I was finally the one to set up the kitchen…this was the first time my husband had to ask ME where things were located).

But anyways, in combination with the above, perhaps I was finally ready to “accept” the jook recipe. As I said, one day my mom taught me again for the millionth time, and it just clicked. I finally got it. I’ve now made it several times. And it actually tastes good.

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I feel like a real Chinese mama now, like learning how to make jook is some rite of passage. Most of the time, I don’t feel like a mama. And there are so many things about Chinese parenting with which I do not agree (don’t ask me if I’m a Tiger Mother as I haven’t read the book.). But there are good things about Chinese parenting. Food made with selfless love as well as knowledge and skill passed down from previous generations provide comfort, medicine and memories. I’ve always felt like a loser in the cooking department as well as in the Chinese department. But now that jook is part of my culinary repertoire, I feel a bit better about myself. Finally. It’s like I’ve matured.

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These days, my girls actually ask for jook for belly aches. It was so rewarding the day they said “Okay mama, my tummy feels better now” after they ate it. Sometimes I make it just because. I love to see that pot of creamy rice, the scent of ginger, and the subtle texture of lightly flavored meat, bubbling on my stovetop. Someone else can clean the pot though. I don’t enjoy that.

 jook1a

So what are those garnishes on top? I grew up sprinkling cut up scallions on top with a splash of soy sauce. My husband introduced these Chinese pickles to me. They’re kind of like gherkins. When ordering at a restaurant, there are all kinds of jook…preserved duck egg with shredded pork is my favorite, with a side of this deep-friend Chinese bread (aka “Fried Ghost” as my bro and I call it). But we keep it simple at home.

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Anyways. Here’s a pseudo recipe of how I make it.

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How to Make Jook (or Rice Porridge or Congee)

Ingredients

  • 1 to 1-1/2 cups white rice (jasmine or long grain)
  • 3 quarts of water
  • 1-inch piece of ginger, skin removed and cut into two pieces
  • About 1 cup of meat. You can use ground meat (pork, chicken or beef) or 1/2 a chicken breast cut into small cubes. You can marinate the meat in soy sauce, cornstarch and a little bit of sesame or olive oil. Or, just salt.
  • Canola or olive oil

Total cooking time: about 45 minutes to an hour.

Directions

Pour rice into a 4-quart pot and wash a few times. Add water until it just covers the rice. Add some salt and a swirl of oil and mix with the rice. Let sit for at least 10 minutes. This softens the rice. Pour out this water, and add 3 quarts of water (i.e. fill the pot 3/4 full).

Cook over medium high heat, stirring occasionally. Bring to a boil.

Add the two pieces of ginger. This will flavor the rice and makes it good for the queasies. If you don’t mind actually eating the ginger, you can grate it or finely julienne it and mix it through the rice. But if you just like the taste but not the texture, just leave it as two pieces which you can remove later.

Look at the rice to see if it has softened. If not, cook longer. If it’s softened, add the meat. If you’re using ground meat, break it up so it’s not in a big blob when it cooks.

Keep boiling and stirring occasionally until the meat is done. The jook should start to thicken. If it gets too thick, pour in some water or a little chicken stock/broth. Season with salt to taste.

Serve with garnishes, such as soy sauce, scallions, pickles, crispy wontons, and cilantro.

Makes 3-4 Servings.

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If you know how to make jook or have had it before, let me know what you think of my recipe. How do you make it? 

Linking: Petite Hermine :: Tip Junkie :: Rook No. 17 :: Momnivoire's Dilemma :: The Frugal Girls :: Lolly Jane Boutique :: Flamingo Toes :: Homemaker on a Dime :: Gooseberry Patch :: Culture Swapper

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12 comments:

  1. I love this post Steph!! It's so fun that you shared the story behind the recipe - which sounds really good. Sorry you're under the weather though!
    I haven't had Jook beofre but it sounds like something my family would love. Thanks for the recipe!

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  2. haha. I meant "before". Why do I never proofread my comments??? :)

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  3. Looks really tasty - I will have to try it. I imagine the ginger helps most ailments!!

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  4. I love jook and I make it much the same way as you do. Better than chicken soup and great anytime. Thanks for this post :)

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  5. Um this looks amazing. If I come over will you make me some? ;)

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  6. HI! I just found your blog and I LOVE it!! I'm from the Bay Area myself, so it's nice to find someone close by for inspiration. I totally feel the same way. I'm Filipino and everyone always told me how easy making Adobo (have you heard of it?) was. I would constantly ask my mom how to make it and it just never clicked. One day, I tried it myself and...WOOHOO! I now make adobo often and the kids actually like it..LOL. I also feel the same way about being a non-mama. Sometimes (most of the time!) I feel like a kid myself!

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  7. Mmmmm, this sounds so great for an upset tummy or a cold winter night, can't wait to try it! Oh and don't worry, you will grow into yourself by just learning and being yourself. You are enough just the way you are, just be you.

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  8. This reminded me of my favorite congee in the Philippines! Thanks for linking up at Creative Bloggers' Party & Hop :)

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  9. Steph, this post was as warming to the heart as a bowl of jook is to a troubled little tummy!

    About a year ago I took my friend to the Renegade Craft Fair in San Francisco and after we went to a little dim sum place on Clement Street. There, she ordered a bowl of rice porridge and I followed suit. I had never tasted anything like it. It was incredible, and was so comforting on that cold, foggy day. My friend said that eating the porridge took her all the way back to memories of the village where she was born in Korea... There's something magical in that rice mixture that conjures memories and comfort all in one steaming bowl.

    Jenn

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  10. Steph, i will have to give your version a try. I LOVE this stuff! I cheat and get the roasted chicken from Costco, pick out the good meat and throw the carcass in the rice broth and shred the chicken meat far toppings afterwards. Ginger is the key and I love it!!! I also squeeze a bit of lemon and sprinkle green onions on top too. Slurp!!! But the children... well, they may not be Chinese since they don;t care for it! LOL Thanks for sharing you story and your version.

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  11. Lol I love it - "feeling gooey"! I have never tried jook, although I've heard of it. In Costa Rica they boil rice to make a kind of rice drink that they give people with upset stomachs. I'll have to try your jook recipe! Thanks for sharing!

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  12. Thanks for linking this up to the monthly Culture Swapper! Featuring it on our FB page (www.facebook.com/alldonemonkey)!

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