Sunday, February 20, 2011

Asian-style Rice and Chicken Soup

The Japanese have Okai, the Chinese Congee, the Korean's Juk, the Filipino's Arroz Caldo, and the Vietnamese Chao Ga. The list goes on and on for the different versions that each different culture has of their own specially nuanced Asian-style Rice and Chicken Soup. The recipe I use to make Juk/Jook (the spelling and pronunciations for this soup vary), was given to me years ago by a Japanese-American friend, who told me it is her ultimate comfort food. I had the good fortune to be discussing this soup with her, while sitting amidst a group of friends, and their collective multi-cultural perspectives on this food was illuminating. Besides myself and my Japanese-American friend, there was a Japanese woman (married to a Norwegian), an American married to a Filipino man who's a prolific cook, a Korean who immigrated to the US as a schoolboy, and a Vietnamese man who immigrated as an adult. They all are very fond of different variations of this soup, and we discussed the similarities and differences of their different culture's, and each individual family's, versions of rice and chicken soup. This soup is just one of the many foods first introduced by our immigrants that was hybridized and adapted in American kitchens, and is now an integral part of the family favorites repertoire for many home cooks, like myself.

I often make this soup when one of us has a cold, and it was a lifesaver when each of my three kids were unable to chew for several days because of the torture resulting from orthodontic visits. Just as for my Japanese-American friend, this soup has become the ultimate comfort food for my youngest daughter. She's spending this weekend recovering from an oral surgery taking out all four of her wisdom teeth. Despite her horoscope earlier in the week declaring she would "start thinking about a weekend adventure," (needless to say) she's been less than thrilled by the whole experience. I made this soup for her to eat, once she could move beyond the broth, yogurt and applesauce foods stage.

Jook or Asian-style Rice and Chicken Soup

Put all the following in a pressure cooker:
1 c. sushi rice
7 c. water, or chicken or vegetable broth
2-3 green onions or 1/2 sliced yellow onion
1 carrot, whole
1 celery stalk, whole
5 cilantro stems
1 jalapeno, whole
1/2 c. sliced (or 5 whole, broken) dried shitake mushrooms (don't bother soaking them)
1 t. salt
1 inch ginger root, sliced or grated
1 can drained, sliced water chestnuts
1-2 chicken breasts, or leftover remnants of a roast chicken or duck
3 garlic cloves, whole

Bring to high pressure. Cook for 10 minutes, then quick-release pressure. Cool a bit, then remove carrot, celery, jalapeno, and onions and discard them. Remove the chicken breasts to a plate, remove and discard the bones, shred the meat and return to the soup.

Serve with any, or all, of the following condiments:
minced cilantro leaves
Black Bean Sauce
Garlic Black Bean Sauce
chili paste or Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce
Hoisin Sauce
soy sauce
sesame oil

This is my youngest as a toddler (taking her guinea pig, Jake for a ride), and I can't help but see her as that tot now, with her face all puffy from surgery, recovering from the ordeal and feeling terrible. Even though she'll turn 18 this summer (and she is one of the most competent and independent teens imaginable), in my heart, a part of me will always see her as this tiny little girl.


  1. It's colorful! It is my first time to know there are similar food in Asia. I ate OJIYA(in japanese) this morning too. Mother's cook is always tender!

  2. Chihiro, It is fun to hear that your Japanese mother also made this soup for her child, just as I did for mine!