Jook – Zhōu – Congee: poor man’s rice porridge, or this makes you well?

Jook – Zhōu – Congee: poor man’s rice porridge, or this makes you well?

Congee, as it is better known in English is a rice porridge from Asia. Its name varies by country, region or language and the list of names runs long. For instance in China it is referred to as Jook in Cantonese and Zhōu in Mandarin. The origin and popularity of the dish is old enough, long enough and great enough to make these details unimportant. Congee is an established food ate as a baby’s first solid, to -one can say- your last meal. The cooking method varies slightly in every country, region, home, kitchen and table, but unlike the origin, this difference is easy to track and lies predominantly in the choice of water where the rice or grains are cooked. Either simply water or stock or broth. Thereafter the variations expand. Congee can be served as a side dish, usually in its most simple form, or as a main dish garnished with meat, vegetables, herbs, sea grasses, salted duck eggs, tofu, condiments….. There is not much of a defined line around how or with what you can eat it.

The basic method of making Congee is what makes it such a healthy dish, far away from spared of flavour and texture. When used as a side dish it elegantly holds the ground as a clean canvas for the flavours of other dishes. Congee is as old as it is wise and considerate, and it makes you well.

9 cups of stock or broth, vegetable, chicken, fish, pork or beef
1 cup of rice, uncooked and washed
Salt (optional)

Place the rice and liquid in a pot and bring to a boil. Turn down to a slow simmer and cook for about two hours with a slightly ajar lid. Once the rice grains have opened up and curled back and the consistency is thick, the congee is ready.
An alternative method is to leave the rice grains soaking overnight and cooking after soaking, This reduces the cooking time. Serve warm, as a side or as a main dish with garnishes of your choice. Congee can be kept in the fridge and reheated before serving. Very easy as a baby food base or an ‘instant’ soup base.

Garnishes in the photos
Kelp (seaweed) hydrated
Soft boiled eggs
Chicken broth jelly
Roasted peppers
Spring onions


About Bubu

When I visualise the world I see a pan, in it are the earth, air and water, they symbolise literature, science and maths, the languages are the medium, culture and civilisation are the art, and the people are the recipe. Bubu is my given nickname, just as María Isabel Alvarez Kirkham, is my birth name. I am a graphic designer and artist focused on spacial and sensory communication, with work ranging from visual communication design to installation art.


  1. I love the western take you have on jook. I am Cantonese but living in New Zealand my whole life. I find jook very comforting and delicious. My go-to additions would be pork mince, dried mushrooms, spring onion and ginger.

    • Bubu

      Thank you! We too share your go-to-likes for Jook, and also find it comforting and delicious. Jook is so kind that it does carry our lets see what we have in the fridge last minute fixes. Often, we just eat it simple, with a bit of soy sauce and perhaps an egg. It never fails in making us feel good and happy. Ginger definitely, I nearly always add it as well when I make base stocks. I also have a go-to with the left over gelatine(d) sauce from steaming chicken, pork, beef or fish, which I find an exciting accent to the palate poured on top of Jook, just before serving. Cheers to Jook!

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