Jook

MAKES: 4 servings

TIME: about 21/2 hours

Jook—also called congee or rice gruel—is a Chinese “porridge” (it’s thinner than most), a breakfast item that’s also terrific served as a soup in the afternoon or evening. It is truly astonishing how much flavor a cup of rice can impart to six times its volume of water, but it’s the garnishes that really make jook delicious. To me, soy sauce, sesame oil, and scallions are essential, but cilantro and peanuts are terrific additions.

1 cup short-grain rice, rinsed

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

2 inches fresh ginger, peeled

10 shiitake mushrooms, fresh or dried

Soy sauce, to taste (optional)

Dark sesame oil, to taste (optional)

1/2 cup chopped scallion for garnish (optional)

1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves for garnish (optional)

1/2 cup chopped roasted peanuts for garnish (optional)

01 Wash the rice and put it in a large pot with 6 cups of water and the salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then turn the heat to low; the mixture should simmer, but only gently. Slice half the ginger and add it to the pot; mince the remaining ginger and set aside. If you’re using fresh shiitakes, stem them (discard the stems or reserve for stock), slice the caps, and add them to the pot. If you’re using dried shiitakes, cover them with boiling water and soak until pliable; slice and add to the pot.

02 Partially cover the pot and simmer for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally to make sure the rice is not sticking to the bottom. The jook should have a porridge-like consistency, so if it becomes very thick too quickly, turn down the heat and stir in more water. When it is done, the jook will be soupy and creamy. Add the minced ginger and, if you’re using them, soy sauce and/or sesame oil, along with more salt if necessary. Serve with whatever garnishes you choose.

Variation

Jook with Vegetables. You can boost jook nicely with more vegetables: Add, for example, during the last 30 minutes of cooking, 2 cups chopped Savoy, Napa, or other cabbage, or iceberg or romaine lettuce, or spinach; 1 cup chopped carrot; 1 cup fresh or frozen peas; or any combination of these. Be sure to add more water to keep the mixture soupy.