BY: CHRISTINE’S KITCHEN CHRONICLES
Jook, congee, or rice porridge. No matter what you call this authentic Asian soup, it is downright delicious and comforting. Many people compare it to the Chicken Noodle Soup of the Asian world.
When I was healing from my miscarriage, my Mom made me a big pot of jook. When the Thanksgiving turkey carcass or Christmas ham bone are picked through, we make jook. In fact, Turkey jook is the most coveted of all because the turkey bones provide an extra sweet base flavor and it’s a rarity enjoyed just once a year.
Sometimes, jook in its cheapest and simplest form is just rice and water. That also brings back childhood memories of when my Grandma and Mom would make a pot of rice in the rice cooker and then using the hard bits at the bottom, add some water and allow it to become a magical soup. I was somewhat addicted to this and steamed rice mixed with ice water growing up. It’s a wonder that I didn’t become malnourished.
In this case, the inspiration for making this recipe was a roasted chicken carcass that was given to me by my in-laws after our weekly Sunday dinner together. Anytime they have bones they know I’ll take it home because I love making homemade broths and soups out of them. Why let it go to waste? That’s what the Asian in my is thinking, anyway. The frugal person in me is thinking of the cost savings that comes from making my own broth (which is SO EASY) at home without any added salt.
This was my first time making jook on my own. I’d watched family members do it many times before but as usual, there’s no recipe and no measurements. The only measurements used were based on “bowls” (of the Chinese soup variety). After some searching, I found a good starting recipe and put my own family spin on it so that it was closer to the way that Mom would do it.
I don’t know why I was so intimidated to try this before. Perhaps it is because I had witnessed too many times where the bottom of the jook ends up burning by accident and thus tainting the entire pot with the unwanted burnt flavor. But my Mom taught me the trick to avoiding that. She always told me to NEVER stir your jook or else you’d have to keep stirring it. As long as you have a vigorous simmer going on, that will be enough to move the rice around and prevent it from burning.
With my first bite I was pleasantly surprised. In fact, don’t tell Mom but I think it might have been the best (non-turkey) jook that I’ve ever eaten. This recipe used chicken broth versus my family uses just water. Needless to say, the broth added a boost of flavor that I had not yet known. It also integrates ginger directly into the soup. While ginger is a common garnish that is served with jook, I usually skip it because I hate chomping on a big piece of it. But, I enjoy the subtle flavor it lends so cooking it directly in the jook was perfect to me. I ate this for 4 days straight and can’t wait to get some more bones to make more!
I hope you give it a try and discover this Asian staple for yourself!
- 6 cups water
- 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 leftover chicken carcass, with some meat intact and skin removed and trimmed of excess fat
- 1 cup long-grain white rice
- 1 tsp ginger, finely minced
- Salt and white pepper, to taste
- Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
- Thinly sliced scallions, for garnish
- Thousand year old eggs, for garnish (optional)
- White pepper, sesame oil and soy sauce, for personal seasoning
- Place all ingredients except the garnishes in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the meat to medium low and cook at a lively simmer. Do not stir! Continue to cook until the rice has completely broken down and the mixture is creamy, about 1 hour. The soup will continue to thicken as it stands but it will get watery if you stir it too much after cooking.
- Turn off the heat and remove the carcass to a cutting board. When it’s cool enough to handle, pull off the meat in bite-sized pieces, discarding the cartilage and bones. Return the chicken pieces to the jook. Stir to combine and season with salt and pepper as needed.
- Ladle into bowls. If desired, season with more white pepper, sesame oil, and/or soy sauce then top with cilantro and scallions. If you like thousand year old eggs, throw those on top, too.