All 3 names (jook, congee, and rice porridge) refer to rice cooked in a lot of water to form a thick or creamy consistency.
The most accurate English name should be rice porridge. But in various parts of China and places with overseas Chinese, there are many variations in the names as well as how the rice porridge is made and served.
Jook/Juk is the English transliteration of the Cantonese name for rice porridge. It resembles a thick soup and ingredients like minced meat or seafood are served in the porridge, making it a one-dish meal. The proliferation of Cantonese-styled restaurants on the west coast means that this is the most familiar version of rice porridge.
Travellers to Southeast Asia will have encountered other types of rice porridge such as the Teochew (chiu chow) plain rice porridge, the Hokkien sweet potato porridge and the Teochew fish porridge, especially in Singapore. There are also the Japanese okayu, the Korean juk, the Thai jok, and the Filipino lugao and the rice pudding (albeit sweet).
Jook is a very forgiving dish. It doesn’t matter if you are a great cook or a rookie. It is a wonderful restorative soup. Have it sweet or savoury, thick or thin, luxurious or simple. It is up to you. It has a long history of use as dietary therapy. Some of the oldest Chinese imperial records have mentions of it as being a premier health food. Its healing power is entrenches in the chinese collective memory. When you are sick, eat rice porridge. Period. – See more at: http://www.homemade-chinese-soups.com/congee.html#sthash.J53eAebv.dpuf.
This is my go to soup when I am feeling under the weather, or felling like I am about to go under the weather. The basic ingredients are very simple, rice (white or brown), ginger, and water. Good for upset tummies or run down immune systems. In China this is often the first food fed to babies. You can fancy it up with chicken (a bone stock is wonderful and nutritious), pork, pickled vegetables, roast vegetables (winter squash, yum), garnishes, and a savory sauce. Or, simply eat is as is if you are feeling unwell.
Although not a favorite for anyone else in my family (they don’t know what they are missing!), I keep a couple of quarts in my freezer just for me. A few years ago when undergoing chemo for breast cancer it was the food I craved.
Chicken Jook or Congee
- 6 chicken thighs, skin and any visible fat removed
- 1 cup of rice, any kind
- 8 cups of water
- I large knob of ginger, peeled – about the size of a wine cork
- Garnishes such as chopped scallions, fried shallots, pickled or fermented vegetables, chopped roast peanuts, soy sauce, roast sesame oil, chili sauce, and Yum Sauce
- Place the chicken in a large pot, cover with the water and add the ginger.
- Bring to a boil, turn the heat down to low and cover.
- Simmer for 60 to 90 minutes until the rice melts into the soup.
- Cool, shred the chicken and add back into the soup.
- Reheat and serve garnished with your choice.
- If reheating you will probably need to add more water as it thickens on cooling.
A quart of this soup in your freezer is an insurance policy against those days when you are feeling under the weather and/or in need of comfort. They sell this in the International Terminal at San Francisco Airport, I almost always have a bowl before embarking on a grueling flight to Europe or elsewhere.