Last weekend my guy, let's call him Guillermo, was struck by a wicked stomach virus that made eating or drinking impossible for 48 hours. It's upsetting to me when someone I care about is unable to eat. My heart broke a little as I watched him try (and fail) to keep down a can of Canada Dry ginger ale while my friends and I feasted on the massive, greasy cheese steaks I made to accompany our viewing of the Team USA vs. Brazil basketball game. When I got a call from Guillermo saying he thought he might finally be ready to eat again, I knew that what he needed to bring him back to life was a big pot of jook.
Jook, also known by its Cantonese name congee, is rice porridge. It is the ultimate comfort food. Known throughout Asia by many other names—lugao in the Philippines, okayu in Japan, bubur in Indonesia, to name a few—it is one part rice cooked with six parts liquid for several hours until it turns into a rich, creamy, fortifying porridge. I cook my jook with a mixture of chicken broth and water, lots of ginger and black pepper, and a little bacon for extra flavor. I serve it with little dishes of scallion, cilantro, shredded carrots, sesame oil, and chili paste—condiments that you can add to your bowl according to taste. Jook's true beauty is its restorative simplicity—it tastes and feels like affection: a hand held, a warm hug.