This soup is my family’s version of chicken noodle soup. In Hawaii it’s known as “jook” but outside of Hawaii it’s better known as congee. Jook is a Chinese rice porridge that has a thick creamy consistency simply flavored with chicken and ginger.
Jook gets requested whenever someone in my family is under the weather. This time around, it was my son who needed the magical healing powers of a hot bowl of jook. In reality, there are no healing powers in this soup except a mothers love. I guess you could call this soul food, because it warms your soul.
I prefer chicken as the background flavor to this soup but any poultry will work well. A lot of people from Hawaii will make turkey jook after Thanksgiving. For me that’s never an option because after I have had my leftover turkey a hundred different ways (ok, that’s a bit of an exaggeration) I just can’t bring myself to make turkey soup. So for me, jook is always chicken.
Chicken thighs make for an easy and flavorful soup due to its’ high fat content. Breast meat can be used in combination with the thigh meat so you end up with leaner pieces of chicken in your soup. But chicken breast alone will not make for a flavorful soup. Just be sure to use bone in chicken because it’s the bones that help in flavoring the soup. I add canned chicken broth to help give the soup a fuller flavor but you can sub it with water if you choose.
***Update 6/2012 - I made this soup a couple of times with 2 large bone-in, skin-on chicken breast and it was delicious (contrary to what I wrote in 2010). The truth is that you can make flavorful jook with breast meat. The bone and the skin (which I removed when shredding the chicken) added plenty flavor.
So, with that said...
Blanch and rinse chicken as usual (to remove the icky stuff), then place everything in the pot except the chicken and bring to a boil. When the soup comes to a boil give it a stir to make sure the rice isn't sticking to the bottom and add the chicken pieces with the skin and bones to the pot. Lower heat and cover. Stir every once in a while to keep things moving. Simmer for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Remove chicken, discard skin and bones. Shred or rough chop and add back to the soup. With this low and slow cooking method the breast meat stays moist and tender.
*** After the soup has cooled and thickened, add a can of chicken broth or water to thin out if needed.
“JOOK” Chinese Rice Soup
4 chicken thighs, bone in with skin removed
2 14 oz. cans chicken broth
8 cups water
1 ½ cups rice, rinsed
1 large thumb of ginger
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
¼ tsp. white pepper
Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook chicken for about 3 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. This helps remove some of the fat from the chicken.
Place all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Cover and turn down heat to low and let simmer for 1 ½ hours stirring every 30 minutes. Cook until the soup thickens. Remove the chicken thighs and separate the meat from the bones. Rough chop the chicken and add it back to the soup.