French supermarkets are funny places. In my book, I touched upon that touchy subject, as well as a few others. But let’s not get into that here; let’s just say that they’re not the best places to buy fresh produce. Which may explain the mystery of the liberal use of canned corn around here.

When I came back from a recent trip, on a late weekend afternoon, I had no choice but to go to my local supermarket to feed myself. I didn’t want to buy much, preferring to wait until I could go to my market the next day, but it was necessary to go and get a few provisions. In the produce aisle, I bypassed the sad bunches of wilted cilantro, I didn’t stop to pick up any yellowed, spring onions shipped from another hemisphere where it’s definitely not spring, nor was I particularly interested in Chinese apples.

But eventually I found what I wanted and headed to the checkout.

I put my purchase on the belt, and when it reached the cashier, she looked puzzled, then confessed that she had no idea what it was. After much head-scratching on her part, and an unanswered call for help to one of her co-workers (who were likely out on a rare cigarette break), I went over and took the pricing sign down from the produce aisle and brought it over to her. It’s a strategy I usually employ only when they refuse to believe me that something I’m buying is actually on sale, as advertised. But I’m glad to know my bargain-assuring technique is an educational tool as well.

asian condiments ginger

She picked up the gnarly piece of fresh ginger, and completely perplexed, asked me, “What is this?”

I was a bit surprised that someone wouldn’t know what fresh ginger was. I know it’s not common in French cuisine, but still, it’s not exactly a rarity either. So I explained it was a spicy root (ok, it’s technically a rhizome, but for argument’s sake, I wanted to keep it simple…anyone with a problem with that is welcome to head over there and explain to her what the difference between a root and a rhizome is. But if she didn’t know what fresh ginger was, well–I wish you the best of luck) and told her that ginger was good candied, or used in various ethnic dishes, most notably Asian ones.

I also added that it was “Très bon pour la santé” (“Very good for your health”), which is an excellent method to get French people to try something new. I actually got someone who was skeptical of a cake with vegetables in it to try carrot cake, by reasoning that because it had carrots in it, it was good for him. I did somehow omit that the cream cheese frosting he was eating might counteract any of the benefits of the carrots, but he seemed to be enjoying it too much.


With that ginger, I made Jook, which is one of my stand-by meals because you can make it with ingredients you likely have on hand, including frozen peas and chicken breasts, and dried Chinese mushrooms, which I stock just for moments like that. (And from now on, I’m keeping ginger in the freezer as well.)

The other night, I went to a terrific restaurant, Cul de Poule, which means “Hen’s Butt” in French. The food is really good, not fancy, but prepared with just enough care to make you realize you’re eating in a restaurant. It’s a place where the friendly staff takes the food seriously, but not to any extremes. There’s no verrines or lines of sauce or plates rimmed with powder, but if you mind sitting four centimeters away from your neighbors or you need to sit in plush chairs, then this not the place for you. But if you like good ingredients, definitely not sourced from the local supermarché, prepared with simplicity and care, it’s a très bonne adresse.


The only downside was that the next day, I woke up with a gueule de bois, my head pounding from drinking a bit too much vin naturel. Whether it was the wine, or the quantity of it, I puttered around the house in my pajamas for most of the day, until I discovered Romain’s stash of Paracétamol, one of the French wonder-drugs (an effervescent version of acetaminophen, which I hope he’s not taking because of a certain américain), and almost instantly, things took a turn for the better.


That, combined with the batch of Jook that I cooked up as well, that is. I can’t say Jook will cure all that ails you, but it certainly helps. And believe me, a lot of times, I need it.


Six to eight servings

Jook also goes by the name congee, a word which doesn’t sounds appealing to me. (Kinda like, “Would you like some gruel?”…um, no thanks…) A Chinese cook I worked with told me that jook means “arrow.” I don’t know if that’s true, but whenever I drink a bowl, I feel like it hits the bulls-eye.

Don’t try to stick too close to the recipe; use it as a springboard for what’s available. Like the dried mushrooms, for example, could be swapped out with some fresh, sautéed ones. I’ve given some suggestions, but like most soup recipes, this lends itself to plenty of customization.

1. Take 1 cup unrinsed short grain rice, and put it in a big pot with 8 cups of water and 2 cups chicken stock (or use all water, if you don’t have stock). Let it simmer for about an hour or so, over low heat, until the rice is completely soft and swollen.

2. Meanwhile, soak a large handful of dried Chinese mushrooms in boiling water or shaoxing, and let them sit until soft. Firmly squeeze out the liquid, trim off any hard stems and thinly slice the mushrooms. Then dd them to the pot along with a 2-inch (5cm) piece of fresh ginger that you’ve peeled and minced.

3. At this point, you can add…

-frozen or fresh peas
-diced chicken or turkey breast, cooked or uncooked
-cubes of lap chong (Chinese sausage) or slab bacon, cooked or uncooked
-finely-diced carrots
-raw peeled shrimp
-a big dash of fish sauce (see Note)

4. Then I simmer the soup for about thirty minutes more, to meld all the flavors. So much depends on the rice that it’s hard to note exact cooking times. But this is rustic fare, so just use your judgment and cook it until the grains of rice are very plump and tender and the ingredients look happy together. When done, the jook should be soupy and runny, not thick enough to hold a spoon. But there’s no standard for jook-consistency, so it’s right when it’s as you like it.

5. Possible garnishes are sliced scallions and/or cilantro. I am a big fan of frying cubes of bacon until crisp them and adding them to each bowl of soup. Smoked tofu, cut into cubes, would work for a vegetarian bowl. Scatter a few roasted peanuts on top, or finish with deep-fried shallots.

(Jennifer brought me some amazing deep-fried onions from the south of France, which are the ‘local’ version of French fried onions.)

Note: To me, the dash of fish sauce is pretty much obligatory to add to the jook, in my opinion, and adds an elusive background flavor. If you don’t have any, add a sprinkle of salt. If you want to be more egalitarian, bottles of soy sauce, chile paste, and sesame oil can go on the table so folks can help themselves. I don’t like soy sauce, though, since too much of it quickly overwhelms everything else in the soup.

Jook will thicken if refrigerated, so just thin it with more water or stock if you store leftovers in there. Although this makes a great lunch or dinner, it’s popular with some folks for breakfast, too.

Related Recipes

How to make perfect Asian rice

Seaweed Cookies

Hoisin-Braised Short Ribs

Olympic Seoul Chicken


Candied Peanuts

Korean Scallion Pancakes

Vietnamese Caramelized Pork Ribs

How to make candied ginger

White Chocolate-Ginger Ice Cream with Nectarines & Cherries

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  • July 12, 2009 4:23am

    This is one of the top comfort foods my mom would make for us! She would save the ham bone and some of the meat from a big ham dinner and we would have ham jook. She also adds in thin bean curd sheets which gives it a nice texture. My favorite toppings were a drizzle of sesame oil, soy sauce, green onions and julienne iceberg lettuce (I know some might think there isn`t a place in the world for iceberg but I swear the nice crunch adds something to the jook!).

  • Katchoo
    July 12, 2009 4:30am

    Bless you for calling this dish jook! Congee grates in my ears too. Try this with diced 1000 year old egg, or simmer in some dried scallops.

  • Marlowe
    July 12, 2009 4:33am

    For breakfast? Why not … it looks like it would be really good as a midnight snack as well.

    Thanks for the Cul de Poule recommendation – I am probably moving right down the street from there in September and don’t really know the neighborhood that well.

  • July 12, 2009 5:36am

    Jook sounds a whole lot better than congee to me too.

    A couple of years ago I was buying fresh peas in the pod from the supermarket and the checkout girl looked at them with something close to panic. She had no idea what they were. It actually made me feel sad that a teenager would have no clue as to what a pea pod looks like.

    Then more recently there were the plantains I tried to buy, they asked me what they were and I told them, the managress came over and said they weren’t on their system. So she put them through as bananas, I’m still not sure if I got a good deal, or was fleeced!

  • Spencer
    July 12, 2009 6:12am

    This kind of dish can be serve for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Jook is best eaten during the winter season. My mom will make this once in a while, and she would make the stock from scratch…using turkey or chicken bones (ham bones will give it a different dimension). Sometimes she would add a beaten egg to the jook and then stir the jook with a spoon, so you would get a swirling egg “cloud” effect.

    You can also add raw fish marinaded in soy with a bit sesame oil to the jook, and it would cook the fish. On a very special occasion, she would add leftover wonton filling (rolled in balls) to the jook. One warning though…if you are a diabetic, this dish could be a time bomb for you.

  • July 12, 2009 6:16am

    Kelly-Jane: I was in Morocco a few years back and passing an almond tree, a 40-something man was listening to his guide point out the tree loaded with almonds. The man, astonished, said; “Oh! I had no idea that that’s where almonds came from!”

    Not that I expect everyone to know what everything is, but almonds are so common
    —I wonder where he thought nuts came from before he saw that tree?

  • July 12, 2009 6:16am

    Jook is actually Cantonese word. Do you know that?

  • mahlookma
    July 12, 2009 7:03am

    Rice soup was a staple of weekend breakfasts during my childhood. My mother, who is Thai, always called it “joke”. I recall her making it with just a bit of ground pork in it most of the time. She would serve it up steaming hot, cracking an egg into it just before serving it to us. I loved mine with fresh ground pepper, lots of nam pla (fish sauce–coincidentally, the squid brand that you show above is still my favorite for this dish), cilantro and/or green onions, and a sprinkle of the deep-fried minced garlic my mother made and kept on-hand.

    I’ll have to talk her into making it again the next time she visits. Mine has just never been quite as good.

  • July 12, 2009 7:16am

    You can freeze Ginger?

  • Angela
    July 12, 2009 7:19am

    Wow – you made jook look good in those photos! In our family we use it as the equivalent to chicken soup? Whenever you feel down or need to feel better – there’s nothing to top it. Well maybe chocolate but there’s a time and place for everything! And I totally agree with a previous comment – julienne iceberg – is wonderful with chicken jook. Do you have a recipe for the chinese bread sticks that are sliced and eaten with jook? They’re sometimes called cruellers or in romanized cantonese ‘yau jah gwei ‘

  • david
    July 12, 2009 7:21am

    Spencer: I love your mother!

    H. Peter: Yes, I freeze the whole thing then grate off what I need with a Microplane zester, peel and all. (It’s so fine, it doesn’t matter.)

    Jaden has some other excellent tips for freezing fresh ginger.

  • July 12, 2009 8:24am

    I’m cantonese and I’ve never ever heard a westerner call this ‘jook’ – I always thought it’s known as congee to them! I like my jook simple with only a few ingredients, it’s like comfort food to me. In Hong Kong where I live, everyone eats plain jook when they’re ill – apparently to help clear your digestive system from fatty or rich foods.
    My grandmother makes the best jook ever, with minced pork and dried scallops – me and my cousins would eat up bowls and bowls of it at family gatherings! Some of my other favourite combos are chicken and shitake mushrooms or minced pork with 1000-year eggs. But I always pick out the ginger when I have jook!

  • Vidya
    July 12, 2009 8:30am

    Huh. I’ve never tried Chinese congee, though where I am in Sydney, there isn’t exactly a shortage of it. Southern Indians have a drink called kangee which is basically a poor man’s thin porridge made with ground up rice and barley and semolina and lots of fun rustic grains, and boiled with milk and jaggery…absolutely delicious. Anyway, any ideas for a completely vegetarian jook?

  • Julie
    July 12, 2009 8:33am

    Jook! My grandpa and dad used to make this all the time. After every Easter or Thanksgiving, they would take the carcass and make a stock, left over meats, add the dried shitakes…”almost” everything that was leftover in the fridge and made jook. It was never the same twice; there was always something a bit different. Steamed meat patty, lop cheung, dried shrimp always scallions, some scrambled eggs and always finished with hot oil…they always used to heat some veggie/sesame oil in a skillet and pour that on top of the entire stockpot full of jook! Its the Chinese cure all just like homemade chicken soup…

  • July 12, 2009 8:42am

    Jook is of course the Korean word for congee (sounds very similar to Cantonese, too). I’m just so fascinated and also appreciative of the fact that a world-renowned chef, like yourself, enjoys Korean (Asian) food. Go you! And go awesome Asian cuisine! ;)

    P.S. – the fish sauce you’ve got is one of my faaaavourite sauces of all time. I often use it to season my rice paper wraps. They’re awesome in fried rice, too. :)

  • July 12, 2009 10:31am

    At Andronicos in Berkeley, the young cashier asked me if the rhubarb I was buying was celery. After I told her it was rhubarb, she spent several minutes looking for its price code on her produce sheet, and had to call a manager for help. Granted, a lot of people don’t like rhubarb so it’s not the most popular item in the produce section, but still…kind of sad.

  • July 12, 2009 11:01am

    Haha, that reminds me of the times, when I lived in Utah and Indiana, when I would buy leeks, for example, and the cashier was always confused and I had to explain what they were and how to eat them…

  • Ruby
    July 12, 2009 11:29am

    I just posted up a picture of plain jook on my blog today!
    This is my favorite dish and I was pretty surprised to see it here!
    Would the French try it?

  • Steve
    July 12, 2009 12:31pm

    Jook and aioli in consecutive posts. I’d be surprised if that’s ever been done before.

  • July 12, 2009 12:36pm

    Jennifer and Dr. CaSo: As annoying as those little tags they stick on pieces of fruit are, as a specialty fruit farmer told me (and I agreed), at least it gets the fruit into the store so people can try it. So stores are more apt to carry a few different kinds of pears or peaches, for example, without them having to worry if the cashiers will be able to identify them.

    Ruby: Romain loved it! Haven’t served it to any other French people, but they’re pretty big fans of soupe, so I would imagine it’d be popular. Maybe with some crème fraîche in it! ; )

    Steve: Yes, but nary the two shall meet…

  • Diane
    July 12, 2009 1:19pm

    cul de poule is also a cooking instrument, that you can use for the bain-marie or simply to mix your ingredients

  • kayenne
    July 12, 2009 1:35pm


    the chinese breadsticks aka “oil sticks” or “you tiao” in mandarin are a tad difficult to make and requires alum(aluminum sulphate) and ammonium bicarbonate(food-grade ammonia), both powdered, plus with a lot of kneading and some resting, to make. plus a ton of oil in a large pot, as it expands a lot and requires deep-frying.

    Easier if there’s a chinatown in your area and see if anyone is selling them. love those freshly fried and tossed in sugar! i eat them like David eats his baguettes. if not available, i would suggest deep fried pate-a-choux(for cream puffs) balls as alternative.


    I hope you added the mushroom soaking liquid… great flavor in there. I love congee with meat or fish floss(dried and finely flaked meat). Also wonderful cooked with dried oysters and just a bit of salt, nothing else.

    And if you can find it, sweet rice aka glutinous rice makes great “jook”. For a yummy, chocolatey “jook”, there is a Filipino breakfast staple called “champorado”, which is jook made with glutinous rice and native cacao tablets(cooking chocolate – spanish in origin) or good dutch-processed cocoa powder and a bit of sugar. This is served hot with sweetened condensed milk(for unsweetened jook) or evaporated milk(if jook is sweet enough). and sometimes, salted dried fish as contrast.

    I hope you try it. ENJOY!

  • Earline
    July 12, 2009 2:09pm

    I lived in Hawai’i for many years, where jook/chook is a staple. There was never any question of what to do with the leftover Thanksgiving turkey carcass every year–it always meant a big pot of jook! I was always astounded at how much water the rice can absorb.

    This is one of my favorite comfort foods. Thanks for posting this, David.

  • July 12, 2009 3:49pm

    Haha, this reminds me once while in the kitchen in high school with a bunch of friends someone picked up a piece of ginger and asked what it was. I told her it was ginger, and she was amazed that it came from someplace other than a canister. Then a know-it-all friend explained “Obviously it’s called ginger because it looks like a gingerbread man. See?” He proceeded to pick it up and point out the arms, legs, and head. Granted, that particular piece did have all the required appendages, but I didn’t have to heart to explain that not all pieces are that shape…

  • July 12, 2009 5:27pm

    Speaking of produce in French supermarkets, why are the bananas so sad and mealy here? I haven’t had a decent one since I arrived….

  • Jeong
    July 12, 2009 6:03pm

    It was surprising to see Korean food here. I mean there are heaps of types of porridges in the world, but obviously Jook is a Korean word for sure. Very interesting to find my country food here!

  • Caroline
    July 12, 2009 7:52pm

    Hi David,

    Lovely photos, and thanks for the recipe. Do you think the recipe would work for brown rice and quinoa combo?


  • joolian
    July 12, 2009 7:53pm

    I had to teach my English boyfriend to cook jook for me when I was convalescing from an illness. It’s foolproof to make and so very comforting. It’s a perfect sickroom food because it’s easy to digest. Thanks for your post David, you’re a true citizen of the world!

  • July 12, 2009 9:13pm


    I find your blog very enlightening. Lots of ideas that are new to me. Let me share with you a method of preserving fresh ginger that I prefer over freezing it (You may already be well are of it.) I peel it by scraping it with the bowl of a regular teaspoon and cut it into large pieces that will fit into a glass jar with a lid. Cover the ginger with dry sherry and refrigerate–very easy to get at when you need it.

    Hope you will check out my blog–

  • Karen M.
    July 12, 2009 9:37pm

    I’m so tickled to see you writing about jook/congee/porridge on your blog! It is one of my favorite comfort foods the perfect combination – chicken (or turkey or pork) broth and rice. Right now I have half a Chinese roast pig head and one of his trotters in the freezer. Waiting for a coolish day to make broth with this and then jook with the broth. I love to add tofu skin, beaten egg, slices of pork, 1000-yr eggs (pei dan), green onion, cilantro or whatever – not at the same time but whatever I might have at the time…

  • Sheri H.
    July 12, 2009 10:02pm

    David: You might like to try slicing peeled fresh ginger and putting it into a jar of Sherry in the fridge. It keeps for months that way and the texture doesn’t change the way it does in the freezer. I’d be interested to see if you like this method. I use ginger from this jar when I don’t have fresh on hand, and really like it. I even use some of the Sherry in cooking.

  • Mila
    July 12, 2009 10:18pm

    I always wondered how “congee” got its name; it’s “zhou” in mandarin, “jook” in cantonese.
    Growing up in Manila, we have a Filipino version of this soup, called “arroz caldo” a basic chicken stock with rice, ginger, shredded chicken meat, topped with chopped green onions, and a sauce of calamansi (small sour green limes) with fish sauce. Perfect rainy day weather, or for the sickbed. It’s our equivalent of chicken noodle soup, the ultimate fix-all food.
    By the way, I had the same ginger problem while shopping in the US a few years back; I was in a less cosmopolitan area in California, looking for ginger in the produce section at a large supermarket, couldn’t find any on display and had a heck of a time trying to describe it to the people working there. They finally gave up and said they’d never heard of it. Had to drive all the way to SF to get some.

  • July 12, 2009 10:19pm

    Jook. :) When I was growing up, we called it “moi”, which is the Hokkien word for it. Our version actually cooks the rice grains until they’re soft, but not completely broken up which is more Cantonese style. I guess moi is more a rice porridge than a soup. My favourite was my mum’s version made with ling fish and ginger and seasoned with a preserved vegetable that you bought in dodgy looking clay tubs and stored for years in the pantry. She also made a nice variation with meatballs that I adored, and of course, chicken moi for whenever anyone was sick.

    Mum was very adaptable in some ways – when we were young, she would serve us plain moi with soy sauce for breakfast, or failing that, with Bovril. When she couldn’t get Bovril, she’d use Vegemite..hahaha.

    Thanks for the memory jog, David. :)

  • Linda H
    July 12, 2009 10:25pm

    About the bad bananas in France–there is/was an actual ‘banana trade war’ between the EU and the US. The French didn’t want to import Latin American bananas through an American-owned company. Europe imports bananas from a different part of the world. Maybe that explains it. Maybe.

  • pw
    July 12, 2009 10:35pm

    i love jook! easy to make (though i really don’t make it as often as i could) and so comforting, especially on a lousy day or if you’re sick. my favorite way to have it would be with some thinly sliced fatty, delicious pork, dried scallops, maybe a bit of thousand year old egg and lots of green onions. and cooked with extra ginger. i just love the taste of it!

    i’m not sure if this actually makes a difference, but i’ve also been told to “marinate” the rice in some oil and salt before adding liquid and cooking. i suppose it might make the rice (and consequently the final jook dish) more flavorful?

  • kayenne
    July 12, 2009 10:50pm

    this is funny… i went to dinner at a fancy italian place with a friend a few years ago and she’s not really a foodie. i ordered mushroom risotto as a side and when it arrived, she asked, “Why did you order congee?”

  • Donna Adams
    July 12, 2009 10:52pm

    The French have a delicious French Ginger Liqueur with VSOP Cognac, “Domaine De Canton” try it, beside just drinking it straight, the uses are amazing!

  • July 12, 2009 11:29pm

    I love this. Simple and hearty fare, based on rice. I need a few alternatives to feed my rice addiction. Pilafs and fried rice are starting to cloy. But this – this is a shot in the arm!

  • Velops
    July 13, 2009 12:27am

    Many people tend to translate it in English as “rice porridge” these days.

    I often wonder why risotto has to be made using the labor intensive methods that the Italians use. A person on the street in Asia can’t tell the difference between the jook and risotto, ignoring the different vegetables and proteins used.

  • june2
    July 13, 2009 12:55am

    I know of this because my Singaporean (sp?) boyfriend introduced me to congee in Seattle’s Chinatown at 3 am after our night on the town. The first time we went I was 1) terrified to be in Chinatown at that hour, and 2) totally won over by his genius as I fell in love – with the congee! We had it with baby bok choy and shitake’s. For something so simple and bland sounding it is surprisingly tasty and satisfying!

  • July 13, 2009 1:00am

    ummm, would like a taste of your homey looking jook, i am chinese btw

  • Sara
    July 13, 2009 1:15am

    Ah, Jook… Whenever I had a tummy ache my mom would always make me some Jook to settle it. “Jook” is a Korean term and it is basically the same as congee – but usually much simpler.

  • chungwan
    July 13, 2009 2:04am

    i made “juk” yesterday with just dried shrimp and butternut squash. absolute comfort food!..and i agree about the fish sauce.

  • david
    July 13, 2009 2:44am

    Velops: There’s plenty of controversy about how to make risotto correctly. I’ve always learned to make it the traditional Italian way, on the stove top, adding stock slowly to maintain the emulsion. But I know some highly-accomplished cooks that swear that Barbara Kafka’s microwave risotto is the best way to cook it.

    And interestingly, I know most of the computerized rice cookers have a ‘jook’ or as they call it, ‘porridge’ mode, too! I don’t have room for a microwave, and I had to leave my beloved rice cooker behind in the states, so I just use a big pot.

    Vidya: To make it vegetarian, simply replace any stock with water, as I’ve indicated (or use vegetable stock) and only add vegetables and skip any meat or fish-related additions.

    Sheri and Phyllis: Thanks for the tip on using sherry. Will give that a try.

    Earline: Yes, turkey makes great stock. Actually, the Italian-American chef that taught me how to make risotto (Paul Bertolli) said that turkey stock makes the best risotto.

    Shelley & Linda: I don’t buy bananas in the supermarket, but you might want to try natural food stores for a better selection. I love red bananas, and those can be challenging to find. But if you do see some (occasionally I’ll spot them in tropical fruit markets in the 13th), pick up a bunch. Unlike their yellow counterparts, the skin should be nearly black before eating. They’re the best!

  • stephen
    July 13, 2009 6:34am

    hi David
    love your blog and books.just a quick story about congee, being english when my indonesian wife first made it for me for breakfast i decided it was the most disgusting thing in the world. fast forward 5 years and if she doesn’t make it every sunday i talk of divorce

  • July 13, 2009 7:08am

    This is a dish that I would see pass by our table in Dim Sum restaurants in San Francisco and it never appealed to me. Until now.
    If it weren’t so hot down here I would be making it today! It will have to wait until the autumn. And I’ll have a big bag of those addictive fried onions ready to sprinkle on.
    Are you sure you don’t want me to bring you another bag?

    Another great looking restaurant recommendation. Merci!

  • Betty
    July 13, 2009 9:34am


    Your jook looks great! I always loved it when I was a kid growing up (great food when you’re ill) and I was surprised after immigrating to Canada that the western world didn’t really have a term for it (other than the Chinese “congee”). I’m glad people are so interested and knowledgeable about Korean cuisine :)

    As a side note, may I recommend some other jook varieties – pumpkin or red bean? They are sweet and can be classified as dessert. They are both delicious, and nutritious too. Hope you check those out!

    As always, love your blog!

  • adel
    July 13, 2009 9:36am

    When I saw Jook, I thought it’s some kind of meat marinade like Carribean jerk or some sort, then, after reading on, it was actually congee, pronounced as Jook in Cantonese. I like this combination in my jook that I’m gonna make soon :)

  • AlexC
    July 13, 2009 10:26am

    I know this is probably blasphemy but can it be made with brown rice?

  • david
    July 13, 2009 10:30am

    AlexC: I don’t know. There are recipes out there that I’ve seen, but I’ve not done it.

    If anyone has any experience, let us know…

  • kayenne
    July 13, 2009 11:08am

    aside from chocolate jook, another sweet “jook” dessert would be made with coconut cream/milk and adzuki/red beans or shredded corn. i hope you give it a try!

  • TD
    July 13, 2009 11:56am

    This post makes me wish I weren’t allergic to ginger! It looks so delicious and comforting.

    You could easily make it without the ginger…no problem! -dl

  • July 13, 2009 12:33pm

    Your clay pot looks so much like one I have from Kerala(southern tip of India). Mine is flatter and used to cook fish in a single layer. Where is your pot from? In Kerala Congee was a staple poor mans breakfast. Normaly cooked with the broken red rice fresh from the paddy fields. Now of course nobody drinks it except when some one is sick. Will try ur congee with the rice my mom has gotten me from my uncle’s fields.

  • Julie
    July 13, 2009 12:43pm

    Jook is definitely a comfort food =) I’ve had it plain when I had colds, for breakfast, lunch, and a late night snack with my friends at a restaurant.

    I accidentally made it when I was boiling up some chicken liver and threw in some day-old white rice and it turned out really well. Using up leftover meat, such as duck, chicken, turkey, and adding the bones can make it much more tastier =)

    AlexC: I’m pretty sure anything goes with making jook. Using brown rice might take longer to cook up but I would think it tastes a lot better with white rice since the texture would be smoother and there might be a difference in taste. Generally, all the added ingredients are meant to add flavour to something that doesn’t have any.

  • Roxanne
    July 13, 2009 12:53pm

    Jook is actually very good and very versatile as well. In my Taiwanese point of view, jook (for Cantonese) is very similar with risotto. Oh, David, next time when you soak the dried (Chinese) mushroom, add the soaking water (or Shiaoxing) into the jook you are making. I assure you, that would make your dish a lot flavorful! Bon appetit :)

  • July 13, 2009 12:55pm

    I am just about the hugest congee fan there is…let’s face it, neither congee nor jook are particularly appetizing names. I may just be making this tonight…you’ve inspired me!

  • Amy
    July 13, 2009 1:04pm

    AlexC: I’ve made jook with short grain brown rice successfully. It takes longer to cook to a good consistency, so I usually use the rice cooker to cook the rice initially, letting the rice soak all day or overnight before it’s programmed to cook for about an hour and a half. (On the stovetop, you could get it cooked in about 45 minutes, but it won’t be as soft and the simmering step might take longer.) I will then add the liquid and proceed, letting it simmer 45 minutes with all the other ingredients. So, you can see that the whole process is a bit time consuming. Completely worthwhile, as it has a nuttier flavor than jook made with white rice. I enjoy both, but the brown rice version is unique. I particularly like it garnished with scallions, shredded ginger, and toasted seame oil, but be sparing with the oil–it’s strong flavored stuff!

  • david
    July 13, 2009 1:09pm

    Roxanne and Kayenne: I know some folks like the mushroom liquid, but I find the liquid too strong and quickly overwhelms. But I’m clearly in the minority! ; )

    Bindu: It’s a cassole, a pot that traditionally cassoulet is baked in.

    I have some that are individual-sized which are from the Not Frères, in Gascony. Note: They don’t ship!

  • July 13, 2009 1:13pm

    This is the first we’ve seen a dish like this. Even though its scorching here in Los Angeles, a big bowl still seems appealing.

  • SU SU
    July 13, 2009 2:04pm

    Yes, you can make jook with brown rice. It doesn’t come to the same consistency as with white rice but it still works. It’s more like the Teochew “moi” which is very soft grains of rice in watery soup. If you soak the brown rice first and then add about double the amount of water you would with making rice, you will get brown rice jook. As mentioned though, jook is bad for diabetics because it’s a high glycemic food. Don’t know if the GI is better with the brown rice. I find that you need to stir the brown rice to break up the grains and then you will get a more normal “jook” consistency.

  • SU SU
    July 13, 2009 2:04pm

    Yes, you can make jook with brown rice. It doesn’t come to the same consistency as with white rice but it still works. It’s more like the Teochew “moi” which is very soft grains of rice in watery soup. If you soak the brown rice first and then add about double the amount of water you would with making rice, you will get brown rice jook. As mentioned though, jook is bad for diabetics because it’s a high glycemic food. Don’t know if the GI is better with the brown rice. I find that you need to stir the brown rice to break up the grains and then you will get a more normal “jook” consistency.

  • Daria
    July 13, 2009 3:33pm

    I work at the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum in Washington DC. We have here a botanical curator who studies gingers from Myanmar. He’s told me about the hundreds of different species of ginger out there, each with their own unique flavor and many that are much more spicy than the species commonly sold in grocery stores. I’ve seen photos of flowering gingers too…so beautiful.

  • July 13, 2009 4:10pm

    Looking forward to trying this recipe (oh, and Cul de Poule when we are next in Paris!)

  • July 13, 2009 4:20pm

    I have always relied upon Vietnamese pho for my go-to hangover remedy. I am thrilled to have another option in my arsenal. Too bad I don’t have Romain’s drugs, too!

  • July 13, 2009 4:59pm

    I’ve never made jook, or congee, but it is the perfect comfort food. Going to have to try making it now.

  • Paulo de Tarso Guimaraes
    July 13, 2009 6:12pm

    Sorry for no comment on jook, but as I wish you live long an prosper, here goes an important advice after your note on “too much vin naturel”:
    NEVER, NEVER, NEVER mix acetaminophen (Tylenol, NyQuill, Vicodin, etc) and alcohol !!!!!! This may cause serious liver damage !!!! Just make a Google search on acetaminophen and alcohol and you will be surprised on how dangerous this mix can be!

  • dpn
    July 13, 2009 6:29pm

    Hi David– so funny how a dish can be claimed by so many countries/nationalities. The fact that it’s such a standby and familiar dish for you, and that you prefer to use fish sauce vs soy sauce makes me not only like you more, but also to want to make you an honorary Vietnamese (since that is what we use to season “Chao” and not soy sauce). The most common is Chao Ga (Chicken rice porridge) which my Mom used to make w/ a ginger, lime, chili fish sauce to dip the poached shredded chicken in. You would have loved it!

  • July 13, 2009 11:03pm

    Ah haha! It’s awesome to see Jook on your site! I feel such a connection with you now! Not that I didn’t before, or ever really thought about it, but anyways, it’s funny never the less. When I was living in the 9th arrondissement last summer, I got really sick, probably with bronchitis from all that god awful cigarette smoke in the air (I’m from California where smoking is so 1990s, ha!) and I was cooking Jook everyday till I recovered. Now, I never eat Jook at home, but it was such comfort food for me in Paris. And to see you, an American in Paris, cooking Jook, makes me so happy!

    My specialty was adding “Foojook”, dried bean curds that when presoaked look like curtains, well that’s what I always called them.

    And of course adding chicken, soy sauce, green onions, black eyed peas, and white pepper made it all the more better!
    Enjoy your Jook and thank you for this post!


  • kayenne
    July 14, 2009 1:15am

    i recall we sometimes use a glutinous/starchy red rice to make “jook”. this is nice cooked with cubed sweet potatoes and eaten with a torta-like thin omelet that is fried with minced salty preserved radish.

  • Kamran Siddiqi (The Sophisticated Gourmet)
    July 14, 2009 4:03am

    Great dish! I have never tried it before, but there’s a first time for everything. I’ll be sure to make it once I get my hands on some lap chong. Great post!

    P.S. I heard that you posted a link to a post in my blog yesterday on Facebook. Thanks for that! I really appreciate it.

  • July 14, 2009 8:35am

    I’m making this as I type. I’ve never tried it but always seen other people eating it in the noodle shops I frequented in Toronto.

    Looking forward, thanks for the recipe!

  • Amanda
    July 14, 2009 9:09am

    My mum makes this every time one of us is sick, or can’t stomach anything really solid. “Jook” is the Cantonese term for it, and “Zhou” is the Mandarin term, written as 粥 in both simple and traditional Chinese. Here in Singapore, we usually just call it porridge – only when I was a teenager did I realise porridge in Western countries was actually made with oats instead of rice. Rice porridge is served in every food court down here :)

    What I love to eat with rice porridge is a raw egg cracked over from-the-pot porridge, and then add slices of tofu (the Japanese tube packaged type) cooked separately before with a lovely thin chilli gravy – if you choose to prepare rice porridge pure (no stock, just cook like rice with a much higher proportion of water), it makes an excellent accompaniment to dishes with spicy sauces.

    Oh and porridge fills you up like nothing else because of the amount of water it contains, so I find it useful in losing weight sometimes.

    There are plenty of ways to prepare it, I really love the way it’s done in Hong Kong (thick and creamy), but the Taiwanese way is really, really too watery for me.

  • July 14, 2009 10:54am

    that’s right, ‘congee’, as a commenter just pointed out, is the other word for ‘jook’.

    Nice post, Mr. Lebovitz. However, i would argue that French supermarket are great for everything regarding to food, including produce. Sure, it may not be the “best” place, as you rightfully point out, but the freshness and taste is definitely superior.

    Also, note that “cul de poule” also refers to the stainless steel bowls we use in the kitchen. Hence, double meaning.


  • Quyen
    July 14, 2009 10:56am

    Your food photos always draw me in, and next thing I know, I’ve blown an hour contentedly sifting through your blog.

    My mom always finished this “chao” with snipped flat chives and a generous sprinkling of freshly ground pepper.

  • Traveling Gal (currently in Pittsburgh)
    July 14, 2009 12:08pm

    Love the gourmet style jook! Jook is a comfort food of Chinese, definitely. Your ingredients published are fascinating. I won’t have thought of putting so many kinds for mine. My grandmother’s recipe has peanuts in it. Old Hakka recipe from China. We like it piping hot! :)

  • Tags
    July 14, 2009 4:05pm

    My sister-in-law works at a restaurant making sushi rolls and brings some home for my wife, who takes them home and puts them in our freezer. When she wants jook, she just dumps a container-load into a pan with some boiling water and adds asian pickles and big chunks of thousand-year-old egg after the jook is cooked.

    Always check for plastic shiso leaves that are often placed in the containers for “atmosphere.”

  • July 14, 2009 5:18pm

    David – thanks for reminding me about jook. Not feeling too well today and jook is such a great idea for dinner. I think I will make mine with some chicken breast strips and dried oysters. Have you tried dried oysters in jook? It’s great. Oh, by the way, I think squid sauce is the new fish sauce. ;)

  • July 14, 2009 5:23pm

    BTW, jook doesn’t mean arrow. “Jook” is the Cantonese pronunciation of the Chinese character “粥.” :)

  • Kawa
    July 15, 2009 1:17am

    I *love* lugaw (as the Filipinos call jook/zhou/congee/porridge). Perfect sick food. My mom makes it in the pressure cooker with chunks of beef, scallions, and ginger, with a dash of fish sauce on top. Maybe one day I’ll try adding saffron.

    Personally, I never understood the appeal of 1000 year eggs, though. Is that just me?

  • Alexa
    July 15, 2009 9:42am

    I was at Cul de Poule probably just a few days before you were. My family was on holiday in Paris and we had read about that place on the web and gave it a try. While we were walking up from the nearest Metro station I asked several people where the resto was and always got a smirk whether they knew or not (exuse me, do you know where the Hen’s Ass is?). My brother came away from Paris with the idea that no restaurant was worth going to in Paris unless you were forced to ask at least three bystanders where it was while enroute. Dinner there was excellent and reasonably priced. Thank you for the jook recipe, I agree with Natalie about it being completely comforting for the Canadian winter.

  • david
    July 15, 2009 9:59am

    Alexa: Ha! I like your brother’s logic. As for the name, there is, indeed, a hen’s derrière mounted on the wall. So although the term apparently does have multiple meanings (as other commenters pointed out), it’s nice to see they’ve got a sense of humor about it.

    Hi Rasa Malaysia: I’ve not tried dried oysters in anything, and am not sure I’m that adventurous ; )

    btw: I took my co-workers word for it about jook meaning “arrow” (yeah, just like I took my co-worker’s word for it in my book, who tricked me with the translation of sweet potato in Vietnamese…and I ended up asking my Vietnamese co-workers for sexual favors!)

    But I did see this page about Korean archery terms, which said “bamboo arrow” is Jook shi. But I yield to anyone else with more knowledge than I about the translation.

    Tags: That’s a great idea–!

    Scootabaker: I love dried tofu skins. I’ve only had them in claypots, but should pick up a package next time I’m at Tang Frères, here in Paris.

  • July 15, 2009 10:31am

    Looks gorgeous! I’ve never heard Jook, but I cook something similar to this one without ginger, I use some mashed tomatoes instead. Actually, I’ve never tried fresh ginger yet, I generally use dried ginger powder in some drinks, cookies and cakes. This one deserves a trying for sure. Thanks for this informative post.

  • July 16, 2009 3:29am

    I remember French supermarches well.

    A big difference that you have from those of us in the States is that all countries of origin are clearly labeled next to the name of the fruit/vegetable.

    Chinese apples would rarely be marked as such here.

    I remember seeing avacados from Jerusalem and clementines from Spain. I remember mache being labeled by the region of France in which it was grown (I can’t even BUY mache here, so I continue to try to grow it). And, unles things have changed there, you probably don’t have to peel a sticker off of every single piece of fruit like we do here in the U.S.

    I remember the first time I took a friend from the States shopping with me. She was amazed at the long cucumbers (you can get those here now, for about $1.20 EACH, completely shrink wrapped in plastic–yuck!)

    I loved the produce in the supermarkets in France. When I lived in Geneve, I would take a bus to France to go grocery shopping; there was so much more selection (and the prices were so much less!)

  • david
    July 16, 2009 4:03am

    Hi Brandy: Yes, all EU countries have to mark the country of origin, but when things are from Morocco, China, and Chile, I’m not so apt to buy them.

    I remember at my local supermarket in San Francisco there were huge display of fresh apricots, peaches, nectarines, and baskets of all types of berries in the summer. And plenty of heirloom tomatoes, too. Yesterday, I was at my local supermarket, and the only tomatoes (in mid-July!) were hot-house tomatoes from Holland and cherry tomatoes that were so unripe, they were nearly yellow, with just a blush of red. (I didn’t check where they were from, but they were in plastic baskets, shrink-wrapped.) The apricots were in sealed plastic barquettes as well.

    Monoprix, one supermarket chain, seems to be making a sincere effort to have better produce. Someone told me that you can’t compare California to France, which baffles me; both are agricultural countries with strong ties to the earth. And I think it’s important to question, and be concerned, about where our food comes from. Wherever you live.

    Provence is loaded with great tomatoes right now, which is 3 hours away by TGV train. I was just in Fort Lauderdale as well, with Romain, and he was blown away by the selection and quality of the produce.

    I wish someone could explain to me why can’t we get those tomatoes here? If the supermarkets can do it in San Francisco (and Fort Lauderdale), why not here in Paris?

  • July 16, 2009 2:28pm

    you’re doing jook wrong. chinese people don’t eat jook like that.

    That’s okay, because I’m not Chinese. -dl

  • manys
    July 16, 2009 11:20pm

    Made some jook last week for my 2.5 yr old daughter. Started out with a homemade stock made with chicken bones, pork bones, onion, carrots and celery. The jook had minced ginger and chicken liver in it. My daughter loves it.

  • Rebekka
    July 18, 2009 4:10pm

    Not all paracetamol is effervescent, just so you know. (Sorry if this is not news to you – you implied it was a brand name effervescent thingy.) Paracetamol is just the European name for acetominophen and comes in tablets, depot-tablets (slow release), effervescent tablets, children’s strength elixirs, and suppositories.

    As an aside, I wouldn’t worry about taking PCM the day after a night out unless you have known liver issues, although it’s true that you shouldn’t down a handful of pills together with a large quantity of alcohol (duh).

    Sorry for the non-food-related rant, but I’m an RN and I just couldn’t stop myself.

  • July 18, 2009 6:52pm

    The ham-bone variety is the best! I’m not big on the post-Thanksgiving turkey variety. Ditch the stock and let bones give it body and flavor. My dad likes cracking an egg into his, too. (We’re New Yorkers, Hainanese by way of Singapore and Malaysia.)

  • adelaide
    July 19, 2009 4:58pm

    Hi! Love your recipes. As a chinese, I’ve got to say I don’t think “jook” sounds like arrow – it sounds more like “bamboo” in cantonese, but then again, I guess they used to make arrows out of bamboo, so it’s technically the same thing.
    And as an avid jook eater, I’m a little taken back how chunky your ingredients are in this recipe! Color and ingredients are usually (for me) more melted into and integrated into the rice and water. If there are big chunks in the jook, it’s part of the cooking process (we usually make a soup base out of pork or pork bones first, then add the rice later). But like fried rice, jook is basically a free-for-all, so there’s tons of ways to make it; probably my parents are used to making jook for me when I was very little (and toothless), so everything was made as mushy and swallow able as possible…
    But I’m so glad there’s a jook recipe here! It’s really good, but isn’t very popular.

  • July 19, 2009 6:53pm

    Hi adelaide: You pretty much hit the nail on the head: jook is sort of a ‘free for all.’ The bowl I showed here looks thick because it was made the day before and had thickened overnight. Usually I like mine runnier, but I still do like discernible chunks of things like bacon and chicken in mine. The important thing I was trying to get across is that it’s really easy to make, and totally do-able, which is why I included so many possibilities in the recipe (and I’m glad folks added more in the comments.)

    But that’s the good think about soup (or jook)-you can really customize it!

  • Kate
    July 20, 2009 12:09am

    To greatly alleviate a hangover, have an isotonic drink. It has never failed me nor my friends after our wine nights!

    What I love best about Chinese food is that the simple and plainest-looking dishes are often full of taste and are the most memorable, like jook and steamed fish. I may go on about delicacies like Peking Duck but if I were stuck on a deserted island and am asked what food I’d want, they’d be jook (with pork floss), Hainanese chicken rice, noodles in soup and my ultimate comfort food: pork with chilli and onions.

  • Beverly
    July 20, 2009 8:02pm

    I grew up on my mom’s jook. It’s Chinese scrapple. My favorite additions are sliced 10,000 year old eggs, minced green onions, minced ginger, dark sesame oil, white pepper, and thin raw slices of halibut and scallops which cook in the hot jook. Yummo!! My mom makes Thanksgiving jook with leftover turkey.

  • July 21, 2009 4:16am

    I like my jook with a fried piece of dough for dipping!

  • Candi
    July 21, 2009 9:06pm

    Oh, how I miss Paracétamol. I can’t take most pain relievers on the American market, so I was happy during a summer in France to find that wonder drug. Alas, it is nowhere to be found here.

  • Annie
    July 22, 2009 5:34am

    In Tamil Nadu, India, Congee is called Kanji. It is normally made only with rice and pulses. It is light and easily digested, and therefore is the preferred choice for people recovering from illness. A poor man’s dinner often consists of rice kanji with plain shallots as accompaniment.

  • July 24, 2009 4:32pm

    Dave, have been reading your blog for years. I love that you love Korean food and that you have two different recipes of Kimchi. I have yet to post mine. I made samgyetang (ginseng chicken soup; w/o the ginseng) today, and the leftovers would be great for a chicken jook. Thanks for the great idea.

  • July 26, 2009 10:45am

    i love jook! koreans also cook and eat jook. when i’m sick i pick up chicken jook from the local jook place and eat it with their little spicy soy and jalapeno pickled daikon. so nourishing and comforting.

  • August 16, 2009 7:12am

    What’s is known widely name describing Rice Gruel is CONGEE, although its origin is a borrowed Indian word “Kanji” by the Brits. Congee is then used when the Brits moved to Hong Kong and China. Popularized by migrating Cantonese, JOOK is actually a semi thick rice porridge made with stock (chicken and pork carcasses with ginger, peppercorn, water etc) boiled with fragrant rice grains. Plain version ranges from peanut/salted egg to expensive sharkfins/scallop depending how loaded you are. My favorite is my mom’s minced pork/shrimp balls with century eggs(preserved gelatin eggs) with loads of shredded ginger and cilantro. I devour my porridge with pickled green chili/garlic. The Teochews’ (Chinese from the neighboring Fujian/Guanzhou) version are somewhat thinner rice porridge where it’s more watery, unflavored by stock, unsalted but eaten with an assortment of side dishes. Pickles, salted eggs, 5 spice peanuts or tofu, minced garlic and chilies are common condiments. Normally eaten in the morning or mid morning, Very basic but in Malaysia it becomes a buffet of smoked duck, braised Teochew duck, braised pork innards and a multitude of side dishes, similar to a tapas, whole day long.

  • Franie
    October 28, 2009 2:47pm

    There’s a restaurant where I live that has jook with chopped wintermelon and a variety of seafood (crabmeat, shrimp, whitefish). While piping hot, an egg is broken and dropped into the bowl. The customers (me) stir it about and it is a fantastic meal.

    The preserved duck egg (the black jellied ones) with salt pork also makes a fantastic combination. I usually take the time to salt the pork for a couple of days in the fridge.

  • February 10, 2010 5:59pm

    Great post & recipe. As a Korean, jook is the first thing I can think of making for a sick or recovering friend or family (Didn’t know Cantonese pronunciation is about the same!). I make mine somewhat similar to risotto. I soak rice for a couple of hours then start sauteing the drained rice in the pan with a bit of oil (usually toasted sesame oil) and add water or stock later. I recently made butternut squash jook which was actually a hybrid of jook and soup by pureeing the steamed butternut squash pieces in the blender with a bit of cream and water and (guess what?) cooked rice. It was creamy but not watery and a bit chunky (from the rice grains) but still smooth. I loved it. I didn’t even add any salt, but it turned out great. Yum!

  • Jung
    March 3, 2010 5:50am

    I have a Korean American background and my memories of jook is plain rice boiled to a thick porridge consistency and flavored with a bit of soy sauce. The only time my mom made it was when one of us was unwell as it really had very little taste. My husband has a Cantones Australian background and his mother is a wonderful cook. I’ve had many versions of jook made by his mom with different stocks and mysterious meats and preserved, gelatinous eggs – none of it very appetizing to me. This is probably one of the only things she makes that I can’t eat.

    So in our mixed ethnic household we have come up with a very good jook compromise. I make a flavorful chicken stock using a whole chicken and loads of fresh ginger and simmer it for half an hour at which point I remove the breasts and continue simmering the rest of the chicken for a couple of hours. I then strain the stock and add the rice until it reaches the consistency we like, where the grains are almost falling apart but still intact. To this we add back the shredded chicken breast and flavor it with fish sauce, white pepper, a touch of soy, toasted sesame seed oil, some sort of raw vegetable (e.g. bok choi) that cooks in the jook. My husband likes to added raw marinated seafood (shelled prawns, thinly sliced squid and fish) and, of course, cilantro. And the final ingredient that really takes it to the next level is a small swig of whiskey for each bowl. Try it the next time you make jook. I was skeptical at first, but it really does elevate the dish. It goes particularly well with the added seafood.

    I’ve also made this with brown rice especially when my son was a baby for the added nutritional benefit. If cooked long enough, with more water or stock, you can achieve the same consistency and it has a nice nutty taste. He was practically weened on this (now that he is almost six, he says he doesn’t like it any more, so sad, and my 2 yo old daughter has never liked it, but might try it with peas as she eats anything with peas). But I must say that I prefer the white rice version as the rice is really a vehicle for all the other flavors you add to it.

    And last thing, your version of jook as pictured looks like a version I’ve had in some Korean restaurants (Woo Lae Oak in New York) except theirs features finely diced abalone.

  • Lien
    July 26, 2010 8:20pm

    Don’t know if you’ve tried the thousand year old egg but i love to add it to my savory jook or cha’o (in Vietnamese) :-)

  • mi jung
    August 12, 2010 8:35pm

    my mom would make me jook whenever I was sick because it is easy to digest. in college, i would always make it for my friends after a rough night of drinking! it always did the trick.

    in the fall my mom would make hobakjook (butternut squash/pumpkin porridge)…she used glutinous rice powder to thicken instead of rice, and made rice balls in it too, it warms your whole tummy up.

    have you ever tried abalone jook? delicious! its made with most of the ingredients you listed above, but my mom would sub kombu (dried sea kelp broth) for the water.

    for chicken jook (aka samgyetang) i recommend covering whole chicken w/ water, boil w/ dried ginseng, dates, chestnuts, garlic, kosher salt for about an hour and sweet rice. when done add sliced green onion and black pepper powder. so delicious

    i was on your site looking at your matzoh chocolate recipes for my boyfriend & stumbled on your korean recipes! do you have a good latkes recipe? he is convinced latkes are better than korean kahmjah jeon (potato pancakes)