The Joys of Jook

A big bowl of comfort -- turkey and ham jook.

For most people, the big winter celebrations come to an end when the Christmas tree is taken down, and the New Year’s streamers and empy Champagne bottles are tossed out.

Not for me.

It never really feels finis for me until I make my huge pot of jook, the creamy, comforting rice porridge that I, like so many others of Asian heritage, grew up with.

My late-Mom always made it with the Thanksgiving turkey carcass. She sometimes made it, too, right after Easter with the leftover ham.

Following her tradition, I freeze my Thanksgiving turkey carcass exactly for this purpose. A few weeks later, it’s joined in the freezer by the big, bulky bone from Christmas’ centerpiece, a Berkshire ham. There, these two picked-over, yet still flavor-packed specimens wait until Jook Day comes.

And that day is usually sometime in January when we start to crave turkey and ham again after having had more than our fill over the December holidays. Then, I defrost the ham bone and turkey carcass overnight in the fridge.

In they go into the biggest pot I have in the house, where they combine slowly for four hours with grains of rice: Short-grain if you like your porridge or congee exceedingly creamy with the rice grains almost completely broken down; Jasmine or long-grain if you prefer your jook to be a little more brothy with still slightly distinct grains of rice.

I like to cook my porridge with coins of fresh ginger, Chinese black mushrooms, a drizzle of sesame oil, and a pinch of white pepper. When it’s finally creamy, practically custardy, I ladle it into big bowls, then sprinkle on slivers of green onion.

Then, I sit back and savor my favorite one-last-taste of the holidays.

My Version of Jook

(serves 8 to 10)

2 cups short-grain or long-grain rice (depending on the consistency you like for your porridge)

1 turkey carcass

1 ham bone

3 quarts water

2 1/4 quarts turkey or chicken stock

4 coins of fresh ginger

8 dried shiitake mushrooms

Salt to taste

White pepper to taste

Sesame oil (optional)

Slivers of chopped green onions

Wash the rice in cold water until water runs clear; drain well. In a large stock pot, place turkey carcass, ham bone, 3 quarts water, 2 1/4 quarts stock, and ginger. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cook 1 minute, then skim off any scum that forms on the surface. Add rice, return to a boil over high heat, then cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer about 3 hours, stirring occasionally.

Meantime, soak dried shiitakes in hot water for about 20 minutes; drain, discard tough stems, and chop mushroom caps into a rough dice. Remove turkey carcass and ham bone from pot. Scrape off any meat that remains and add back to the pot. Then stir in diced shiitakes. Let jook simmer for another hour until the rice grains have swelled and the porridge is thick and creamy. Add salt and white pepper to taste, and a drizzle of sesame oil, if you like.

Ladle jook into bowls, then sprinkle on some green onions and serve. Leftover jook will keep in the refrigerator for a few days. If after reheating, the jook seems too thick, add a little water or stock to thin it to desired consistency. You also can freeze jook in a tightly sealed container.

From Carolyn Jung

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  • I need to drizzle lots and lots of sesame oil on my mum’s home-cooked jook!

  • This dish looks delicious and very healthy! Thanks for sharing these memories with us…



  • Sounds delicious! I think I’d like the creamy version with short grain rice.

  • The day-after-Thanksgiving-jook is the only part of Thanksgiving I look forward to. Before my guests arrive, I complete carve out the turkey so the carcass is already bubbling in the stock pot by the time we sit down to dinner. I smoke my turkey so that adds flavor to the broth, plus we like to use the chocolate-colored skin as a garnish for the jook. We also have some of the leftover meat, fresh celery cabbage, and a rather fiery hot sauce made from crushed chilies, salted black beans, garlic, and shaoshing wine. (I’m wistful just thinking about it.)

  • Wow, Peter! You have the jook-making system down to a fine art.

    I, too, sometimes drizzle a little chile sauce over my bowl of jook. Just depends what mood I’m in.

  • I have been on a congee roll this past week and have been pondering trying to make this at home. How fortuitous that you have this lovely, non-intimidating recipe posted!

  • I’m a huge fan of jook, but have to admit, with our strange California winter weather, I haven’t been craving jook! I think it’s best on those rainy weekend days, when you just want to stay inside and bundled up…that’s when a bowl of hot jook is at it’s best!! Maybe we’ll get some rain one of these days and I’ll be able to make some jook! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • I love home-made jook. I think the brilliance of jook is that you used leftover meat with bones and then simmer for a long time. So not only do you get the goodness of the bones, but the meat becomes so tender they fall off the bone making sure you get every single morsel that otherwise would have been a chore to eat in their original state. That’s why I appreciate jook as a way to really use every single bite of your previous dinner. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    So FoodGal, do you like your jook creamy or thin? I notice most restaurants do the thin version, probably because they use less rice. I like mines creamy but not really thick. And of course I love to throw in a couple of preserved eggs you get from Chinatown (sometimes known as thousand year old eggs although they’re not preserved that long!).

  • Single Guy Chef, I like my jook creamy, and kinda thick but not stand-the-spoon-up-in-it thick, if you know what I mean.
    And I’ll give you a tip on those thousand year-old eggs. They’re tasty, but do not, on any condition, ever ever ever drink a glass of OJ after eating one OR brush your teeth with mint toothpaste. Oh, the combination of either is ghastly. I learned this the hard way by accident as a child. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • This sounds just great! We can taste the flavors, especially the ginger.

  • Jook! Our church just had a first Sunday of the month breakfast with pots and pots of jook and LOADS of century egg (and other stuff). Sooo yummy! Sometimes, when I am feeling very lazy, I will get a roast chicken from Costco and then the leftover bones and some meat and all the sauces gets tossed into a pot and made into jook–very flavorful and fast. That’s my quick jook. Now I am thinking it’s time for jook again (we also have a turkey carcass waiting in the freezer).

  • Mmm, this looks delish! My family’s jook is simply rice simmered in water, no seasoning, with fixings (mostly pickled and fermented stuff) on the side. I’m going to make sure that I get the Easter turkey carcuss this year to make your recipe!

  • OOoooo I love jook on a cold winter day. The combo of turkey and ham sound fantastic! I’m not a huge fan of turkey stock, so I usually end up mixing it with other things and I bet the ham works perfectly for covering up that “turkey” flavour:-)

  • The ham IS a great addition. It lends smokiness and a subtle sweetness to it all. I think you’d definitely love it.

  • My acupuncturist turned me on to congee, and now I can’t get enough of it. Thanks for sharing!

  • In Indonesia, we call this dish, bubur. It is the ultimate comfort food. My favorite time to eat this dish is breakfast and late night. It’s really easy on the tummy.

  • I’ve never had Jook, but I’m 100% sure I’d like it. Too bad I don’t have a turkey laying around. I wonder if I could find it in a restaurant around here…

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  • I love rice porridge and your variation is lovely, I should make one after all the festive food.

  • The great thing about jook is the infinite number of condiment combinations you can have.

    Andrea, you can use a roast chicken carcass or you can really cheat and use canned chicken stock.

  • I love jook. My favorite is the one with thousand year old egg. Yours looks great too!

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  • This was so easy to make, and so flavorful (with so few ingredients too!) – brought back memories of growing up with my parents’ jook on cold Saturday mornings.

  • Lauren: So glad you enjoyed it. It is super easy to make, and the payoff is a big pot of comfort.

  • Your jook is just what I need to get over this head cold! Making it now, smells amazing! Gotta get well to do your hair!

  • Kiki: Oh no about the cold! I hope you feel better soon. If anything can cure what ails you, jook is it! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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