Ah, Jook, the food of the diseased. When you’re sick in America, they give you chicken soup. When you’re sick in Russia, they (probably) bring out the vodka. When you’re sick anywhere in Asia, you get Jook. Among other things, it’s believed that Jook has some sort of medicinal qualities. It’s easy to swallow, replenishes the body with much needed water and is apparently a “cooling” food1. It also has some sort of mystical quality that enables sick people to taste it despite having their nose and ears completely stuffed up.
Jook is a simple dish, actually, but delicious despite its simplicity. It’s pretty much white rice boiled down in lots of water until it breaks up and becomes a viscous, but tasty goop. Unsurprisingly, there are about a million varieties of this dish from all sorts of cultures from Portugal all the way through Burma.
The Jook served in Singapore is inspired by the Cantonese version of the dish and can contain anything from fish slices to pork meatballs. The smooth texture of the dish is broken up with the addition of pieces of fried dough called Youtiao, which are crunchy… unless they’ve been floating around in the soup for more than fifteen minutes, after which they become soggy, but that’s your own fault.
If you’re not an adventurous eater, however, please take note: One must be thoroughly careful when ordering Jook. If you do not carefully specify what you want in your porridge, some stall owners will happily flood your porridge with (presumably) medicinal ingredients that may or may not tickle your fancy such as pig intestines, century old eggs or beef tripe.
Cooler Becky likes to have her sick food with pork meatballs, pork liver, a dash of sesame oil, a few pieces of you tiao, an egg and lots of scallions.
If you’re looking to cook a very authentic Singaporean version of this dish, this is the best Jook recipe that I’ve found so far. If you’re a lazy and starving student in need of a quick meal, however, my quick cook one-pot “University Jook”2 recipe is as follows3…
- 1/2 cup rice
- 2 carrots
- 1 onion
- 200mg minced pork, chicken OR beef
- 1 stick celery OR 1 medium potato OR 1/4 a head of cabbage
- 1 tsp ginger powder
- 1 tsbp Light soya sauce
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1 tsbp cornflour
- 1/4 tsp chicken stock powder OR 1/4 a stock cube
- Lots of water
- Fried onions
- Wash the rice until the water runs clear – two or three washes should do it.
- Put rice into a microwavable rice cooker. Add 2 cups of water to the rice and heat in the microwave at medium for 15 minutes.
- Peel, wash and dice vegetables finely.
- Marinade mince with the soya sauce, sugar, pepper, stock powder and cornflour.
- Remove pot from microwave. Stir in 1 cup of water and all the vegetables until evenly mixed. Add ginger powder. Put it back in the microwave and cook on medium for a further 10 minutes.
- Make meatballs out of mince, using a teaspoon to measure amount of meat.
- Add the meatballs to the porridge mix and stir well. Add 1/2 cup of water if porridge looks dry. Dump it back in the microwave and heat for a further 10 minutes.
- Add scallions or fried onions to taste.
1“Cooling” is a Chinese medical term which means “the opposite of heating”. This is apparently supposed to be a very good thing.
2Now with more vitamins and minerals than you would ever usually consume during your entire tenure at University!
3Insofar as it can be considered “my recipe”, given that the original recipe was actually given to Cooler Becky by Cooler Becky’s Mum.