A Bowl of steaming Juk

By Su (mother) and Mia (daughter) Buchignani “Wow! This completely reminds me of something my mom would have made in her crockpot. It makes me feel like home.”—Melissa

A standard breakfast in our household was a big bowl of steaming juk. This rice porridge, which is also known as jook, hsi-fan, congee, or zhou, is made of white rice, often with the addition of glutinous (sticky) rice. It’s simmered for several hours until the rice grains break down and the porridge becomes smooth as silk.

Mia: My preferred accoutrement to dip in the porridge was you tiao, a long, golden-brown strip of deep-fried dough. To understand this savory fried donut, think Chinese churro without the sugar or the crimping. Sometimes you
tiao is served with hot soybean milk, but traditionally, it has been used for dipping and wiping up the morning juk before going off to work in the fields.
Every household has its own traditions regarding what is eaten with juk. Some are quite strict purists where others adopt an ‘anything-goes’ approach, using the juk as an extender for whatever can be found around the kitchen. Common accompaniments are pork, chicken, or abalone, as well as various vegetarian “mock meats”; salted or preserved duck eggs; bamboo shoots; and pickled tofu. Rou sung (shredded dried cooked and seasoned pork) is one of the really common things to add. It looks like lint but tastes terrific.

Su: In my parents’ home, certain days were vegetarian and partial-fast days, and the only thing added to the
day’s juk might have been sweet potatoes or raw peanuts. Other days, leftover meat, fish, or poultry was eaten
with it. Except on partial-fast days, ruo sung, preserved tofu, and pickled vegetables were always available, as were
fresh scallions or cilantro.

Plain Juk
½ cup any kind of white rice
½ cup sticky rice (also known as sweet rice or glutinous rice)
10 cups of water

Wash the rice if you prefer. If my rice is from a good source, I don’t wash it.

Soak the sticky rice if you have time. Even ½ hour makes a big difference in cooking time.

Put water and rice in a heavy flat-bottomed pot. Bring to a boil, then lower to a gentle simmer and cook for 4–6 hours to desired consistency, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. That’s it. Now it’s ready to receive flavoring ingredients.

Delicious Flavored Juk
Use good homemade chicken broth instead of water when you make the plain juk recipe above. Toss in about a pound of chicken meat, chopped coarsely. Add as many dried scallops as you can afford (soak and shred first, adding water to broth). You can offset the expense of the dried scallops by using good-quality dried shrimp, soaked and chopped, but the flavor will be coarse. Season with 1 large slice of ginger, chopped shallots or garlic (not both), salt, and white pepper. Serve with very thinly sliced green onions (white part only) or shallot tops and a few drops of sesame oil.

More variations:
• Try adding some good Chinese black vinegar.
• Pig trotter, belly, or other fatty part of the pig makes juk really rich. Trotter adds great mouth feel.
• Crack a small raw egg into your bowl for added protein.
• For sweet juk, add a handful of sweet potato chunks as is done in Taiwan. You might also add loaf sugar, toasted sesame seeds, lotus seeds or ginko nuts, and a little black sesame oil.

Jou Rou Pi Dan Juk
Pi-dan (pea-daahn), also known as thousand-year-old eggs or century eggs, are preserved duck eggs. They have a soft, creamy, Brie-like texture that perfectly complements the texture of juk. Approach pi-dan as you might an aged French cheese: utilize an affineur’s appreciation for texture, flavor, and density.

To 8 cups plain juk, add some finely minced fresh ginger, 2 sliced pi-dan, and a pound of lean pork (or leftover cooked pork) that’s been rubbed with a little white pepper and salt and chopped. Simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the pork is cooked through, and then serve with sliced scallions, chopped cilantro leaves, and a few drops of goodquality sesame oil. You can keep it warm all day—it just gets better.


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