Thursday, January 20, 2005

A different perspective on congee...

From, a little segment on Congee or rice porridge (jook in Cantonese). My mom showed me a delish recipe, but I'm always on the lookout for variations to try in the future. Anyways, here's the excerpt, apparently geared towards helping a hangover:


From China, Hangover Help

I first encountered jook in Hong Kong at dawn after a very long night. I was steered to an anonymous little place, where, I am quite sure, I was not the only person with a headache. It was there that I discovered that this savory Chinese rice porridge was among the world's best breakfasts, especially after a night of indulgence.

Addiction, or at least dedication, followed, and I soon ate jook, also known as congee, in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Vancouver and New York.

It is transcendent stuff. You might think of it as Chinese risotto, though infinitely less pretentious. It is delightfully creamy, forgiving in its preparation and variable beyond belief.

Jook originated as poor people's food. In its most elemental form, it is a relatively small amount of rice - usually short grain, and sometimes mixed with a bit of glutinous rice - cooked with a large
amount of water. It is then seasoned with ginger, scallions and whatever else is on hand.

In restaurants, the variations can take up an entire page. You see jook cooked with bacon or Chinese sausage, with whole or ground pork, with fish or fish balls, with cilantro, with shrimp, with tripe or other offal, with vegetables and so on. I especially like jook with a load of cilantro and some easily flaked fish or bacon.

When I started cooking jook at home, I substituted chicken stock for some of the water and, not surprisingly, it made a huge difference in the underlying flavors. I also began to realize just how easy a process this is.

In restaurants, jook is often made in huge pots and cooked overnight, then flavored in the morning. I usually make it in the afternoon, simmering it gently and stirring it occasionally, while puttering around the kitchen. I often eat a little that night but
save most of it for the morning. Despite its simplicity, jook does
not keep well for much longer than that, especially once it has been seasoned. You could also make it overnight in a slow cooker.

1 cup short-grain rice
2 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade, or water
1 3-inch piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1/4 pound slab bacon, optional
Soy sauce or salt to taste
1/4 cup crispy cooked bacon, minced, optional
1/4 cup minced scallions
1/2 cup roasted peanuts, optional
Sesame oil for drizzling, optional

1. Wash rice, and put it in a stock pot with chicken stock or water. Place over high heat until stock boils, then add about 4 cups water. Bring to a boil, and turn heat to low. Partly cover pot, simmer for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally and adding
water as necessary (probably about 2 cups more).

2. Add ginger and slab bacon, and simmer for an hour more or so. Jook should have a porridgelike consistency. If it becomes very thick, add water. When done, jook will be soupy and creamy, like loose oatmeal.

3. Remove slab bacon, and serve jook in individual bowls. Season with salt or soy sauce, then garnish with minced bacon, scallions and peanuts. Drizzle with sesame oil if desired.

($Chinese, $Cooking)

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