Jook, also known as congee, was the best comfort food for me as a Chinese-American boy who grew up in the American Midwest.
We ate it for breakfast with a variety of small dishes like fried ground fish or pork thread, thousand-year-old canned duck eggs, pickles, shao bing (hot bags covered in sesame) or youtiao, fried dumplings.
Another popular variation is to prank a whole chicken until the meat falls off the bone with lots of green onions and ginger.
Jook was also somewhat served when he was ill; it filled my belly when I couldn't bear anything seasoned or oily.
It can be thick like oatmeal or thick, depending on your taste. I always enjoyed the thicker consistency and took large bites with a blue and white ceramic Chinese teaspoon patterned with small translucent grains of rice.
As my family and I began taking shelter in place in March, our rice cooker remains our constant friend during these difficult times.
It never disappoints us and allows us to cook a meal in a pot at the perfect time and temperature. Variations are endless with jook – salty, sweet, vegan, vegetarian. Using broth instead of water will add flavor and will not require additional salt.
It is a dish made for frugal times that can be complemented with fried meatballs, hard-boiled eggs, peanuts, kimchi or anything crunchy for a more abundant meal.
In my childhood memories, steaming bowls of prank signify comfort, healing, and sustenance. All the things we need right now during the coronavirus pandemic with so much uncertainty and no end in sight.
For a simple meal that you can use a wide range of pantry items and leftovers, a joke made on the stove or in a rice cooker can help you get through another day. You can also make jokes using a slow cooker or instant cooker, following the manufacturer's instructions.