This week it’s my turn to host The Food Matters Project and since it’s been cold out lately and I love things with lots of vegetables, I chose Chicken Jook with Lots of Vegetables. Jook, also known as congee, is a rice soup that I like to think of as the Chinese equivalent to chicken noodle soup. My grandmother used to make it for me when I was sick as a child. Her version uses white rice, but this recipe calls for brown rice, which creates a heartier, more nutritious jook, albeit not the same as the original I grew up with.
There is one thing… There’s no meat on this here blog [update: Though the majority of my recipes are meatless, sometimes I'll put meat on the blog]. Not because I don’t eat meat (I do on occasion), but because I think there are enough meat-filled recipes out there, and where people seem to struggle is in finding ways to enjoy meatless meals that are nutritious, easy, and tasty.
Another thing… I’m not into extremes, and I’m not into labels. I’ve been fortunate enough to find a place (after a long heath journey) where I can be happy about the food choices I make (rather than feeling deprived) and eat intuitively. Sometimes I indulge, but I’m kind to myself and I eat foods that make me feel good, whole, and healthy. And that’s why I love The Food Matters Project so much, because it’s about eating whole foods that nourish our bodies. We only get one body and one life, so why not be kind to ourselves feed ourselves well?!
So, I made my jook without chicken, but since I’m hosting this week, I’m supposed to post the original recipe in it’s entirety. If you want to make it like mine, skip the chicken (it doesn’t need it, anyway).
CHICKEN JOOK WITH LOTS OF VEGETABLES
serves 4 (I doubled it) time: 3 hours largely unattended (it took me 2 hours)
From Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Cookbook
This creamy Chinese rice porridge – also known as congee – is a perfect cold-weather soup, and a fine vehicle for delicious add-ins. It takes a while for the grains to break down and thicken the water, but luckily you have options: Jook cooks perfectly in a slow cooker, or you can make the soup a couple days ahead and simply reheat it. It also requires virtually no attention as it simmers, so making it on the stove is not all that much work.
3 tbsp vegetable oil (I used coconut oil)
3 bone-in chicken thighs (or you can skip the chicken)
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp minced ginger
1 fresh chile (like jalapeno of Thai), minced
1/2 cup chopped scallions, plus more for garnish
1 cup short grain brown rice
2 cups cabbage sliced into very thin ribbons
1 cup snow peas
1 cup bean sprouts
2 tbsp soy sauce, plus more for serving
1 tbsp sesame oil
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, for garnish (I totally forgot it)
1. Put the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the chicken thighs and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Cook until they are very well browned, 5 minutes per side or longer. Remove the chicken from the pot. Add the garlic, ginger, chile, and 1/2 cup scallions and cook until they are soft, just a minute or 2.
2. Add the rice along with 6 cups water. Bring to a boil, then adjust the heat so it bubbles. Partially cover the pot and cook for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally to make sure the rice is not sticking to the bottom. Add the chicken and cook for another hour or more, again stirring. The jook should have a porridge-like consistency; if it becomes very thick too quickly, turn down the heat and stir in more water. When it is done, the jook should be soupy and creamy but still have a little chew.
3. Remove the meat from the bones if you like and return the meat to the pot. Stir in the cabbage, snow peas, bean sprouts, 2 tbsp soy sauce, and sesame oil; cook until the vegetables are just tender, another 5 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve, passing the cilantro, additional scallions, and additional soy sauce at the the table.