Sunday, March 8, 2015

Recipe: Mak Juk, a Korean Porrdige Hack

Dinner: Juk topped with chicken, asparagus, Brussels sprouts and toasted almonds and garlic

Now here’s some classic Seoul food: dak juk, a savory Korean rice and chicken porridge. This dish is traditionally made by slowly simmering Asian medium grain rice and a whole chicken for hours until it creates a thick and silky porridge. It’s lightly seasoned with ginger and ginger and served with full-flavored banchan (side dishes) that typically accompany Korean meals. Although it’s a savory dish its best served with a little sweet for balance with chopped dates or a little honey.

From waste-not-want-not cultures come some of the best comfort food; juk (Korean), congee (Chinese), jok (Thai), lugaw (Filipino), deythuk (Tibetan) and okayu (Japanese) are similarly the same porridge but vary by cooking liquid and what accompanies the meal. This includes arroz caldo, the Portuguese rice soup which finds it’s origins in Macao.

3:10 soft-boiled egg with wilted spinach and toasted garlic over Korean rice porridge with a little maple syrup

Chop chop! Get your aromatics ready.
Mak Juk, a Korean Porridge Hack
In this recipe I’ve made some shortcuts; I call it mak juk (Korean for easy porridge). The key to this dish is using a good chicken stock. Each month I break out the large stock pot and make my own thick, silky chicken stock by simmering bones, meat and vegetable scarps that I save in a freezer bag. But in a pinch I also make a decent “stock hack” by reducing a carton of organic chicken stock with a small onion, a little salt and unflavored gelatin (or chicken feet if I can find them instead of gelatin). Note: Use organic stock, not broth. Although this recipe is gluten-free by nature, people with celiac disease should always check the ingredient list for GF claims; that’s one incentive to make your own chicken stock when you can.

I prefer Asian medium-grain rice over long grain rice; it incorporates well into porridge and holds its shape and texture much better than a long-grain rice such as Basmati— a short grain rice might be too sticky. In a pinch, Jasmine rice from Chinese take-out seems to be a happy medium. As my grandmother used to say “Don’t throw out that leftover rice!” So let’s get busy in the kitchen! This recipes serves six hungry people— cooking and prep time is about one hour.

Reduced Chicken Stock
  • 1 32 oz carton organic chicken stock
  • 1 packet unflavored gelatin (1/4 oz packet)
  • 1 small onion, with skins cut into quarters
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp whole pepper corns
Pour a carton of chicken stock into stock pot and bring to a boil, add quartered onion, salt, sugar and pepper corns. Lower heat and simmer until stock is reduced by one quarter of volume. Strain stock through a fine sieve, discard solids and dissolve a packet of unflavored gelatin into the reduced stock; stir well and reserve 1 3/4 to 2 cups.

Korean Porridge Recipe
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 3/4 to 2 cups cups reduced chicken stock (see above)
  • 2 cups cooked medium or short grain white rice
  • 1 piece fresh ginger, peeled and julienned (about 1 packed tbsp)
  • 2 large garlic clove, minced (about 2 tbsp)
  • 3 tbsp peanut or light sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup leek greens, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 cup carrots, finely diced
  • 1 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
Prepare garlic and ginger, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and set aside. Bring 5 cups of water to boil, add reduced stock, lower heat. Add rice, garlic, ginger, peanut oil (or sesame oil), diced carrots, salt an black pepper. Cover and simmer on low for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the porridge thickens, remove from heat and allow to cool, adjust salt if needed, but it should be mild and savory. Serving in bowls with your favorite toppings, drizzled with soy sauce and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds. You can make Juk ahead of time, it will store well refrigerated for about three days. Reheat it in a double boiler or microwave.

Juk is a dish that pleases everyone at the table— served with small plates of bancahn, side dishes that complement the main meal. This way everyone can tailor their meal to their liking. Let your imagination run free and enjoy your hot savory porridge. Here are some of my favorite sweet and savory toppings:
  • kimchee
  • toasted garlic
  • toasted almonds
  • ground peanuts
  • shaved bonito flakes (katsuoboshi)
  • soft boiled egg
  • fresh Korean peppers
  • sliced roasted chicken
  • bacon
  • Tasso ham
  • wilted spinach 
  • asparagus
  • fresh kale
  • roasted cauliflower
  • sweet pickles
  • pan-roasted Brussels sprouts
  • maple syrup
  • clover honey
Yesterday’s miso-honey roasted chicken breast is today’s Korean porridge topping— waste not a thing.

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