Monday, December 5, 2011

Joak (Rice Porrige or Congee)

Joak, Jook, or Juk (cantonese) Zhou (Mandarin) Rice Porrige or Congee

This is akin to fried rice, in that in Asia it is a staple comfort food with endless variations in the details of the recipe and condiments.  There is not even agreement regarding the type of rice to use.  All over the Asian continent, hundreds of millions of people begin their day in homes and cafes with Joak , yet it's simplicity belies the fragrant, silky deliciousness of rice porridge.   Rice, water or stock and a dash of salt, simmered for an hour or two--the rest is an accent, and depends on what is available in the kitchen.  It is also a major offering at dim sum, though it is hidden inside a warmer, on a cart, alongside a stack of bowls and chopped green onion.

9 cups stock (see techniques section on homemade chicken stock) or water.
1 cup short grain rice (calrose rice, not glutinous rice; long grain rice can be used)
salt to taste

Rinse the rice two or three times and drain through a sieve.  Add the rice to a pot with the stock or water and bring to a boil, stirring often.  Reduce to a simmer and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, adding stock or water as needed to adjust texture.  Add salt to taste.  Joak is generally the texture of a thick soup or batter, and the grains of rice are barely intact.

As for the garnishes and additions, here is a list of typical items, ordered from the most to the least common, although it is purely a matter of personal taste.  Feel free to use none or one or several…

You tiao (Chinese fried cruller, shown in photo)
Green onion, sliced thin, diagonally
Fresh ginger, finely shredded
Pickled ginger, finely shredded
Pickled vegetable
Chinese black mushroom, reconstituted, stem removed, slivered

Thousand year old egg, cut into eighths, lengthwise
Fish, filet, cut in pieces
Lop cheong (Chinese sausage) sliced thin, diagonally
Pork "dumplings"  This simple addition can be made as follows:

Mix 8 oz.  ground pork with a scallion, finely minced and 1 or 2 cloves garlic, finely minced.  About 4 minutes before serving, pluck a teaspoon or so of the pork mixture with the fingers and drop it in the simmering joak.  Repeat for as many dumplings as desired, then gently submerge the meat and allow to cook for 4 minutes, or until firm.

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