Hi all! Long time, no blog (as usual). Alright, let me cut to the chase: jook, aka congee = Chinese soul food. It doesn’t get any more basic than this: water + rice. The thick rice porridge provides a blank canvas upon which other ingredients – 1000 year old eggs and salted pork (my personal favorite), fish and lettuce, dried scallops and peanuts, etc- can be applied, so in the end you can have an endless variety of delicious tableaus and landscapes. For me, it’s comfort food, plain and simple. I crave it when I’m under the weather, when I’m homesick, and when I just want to eat something I know is going to be absolutely satisfying to my body and soul. My mom used to make it when I was a kid and I remember the way the whole kitchen would steam up and smell of cooking rice. When I visit my grandmother in Hong Kong, the first meal we have together is at a nearby jook joint. Quite simply, jook tastes of home and family.
But because jook is so basic and near and dear to my heart, it never occurred to me to post a recipe of it. Enter my friend Jason. Thankfully, he filmed his mom making her version of jook and was kind enough to let me post it here. Not only does her version look delicious but watching the video I was also glad to see the special place the dish occupies in her family. That’s how soul food is: universal but also entirely personal.
Alright, enough from me. Here’s Jason:
Last week, my wonderful mom came over to teach us the steps to making her version of congee. I grew up calling this Chinese porridge “jook” but have recently learned the new name as it is served every day at my Grandma’s nursing center.
The day of this shoot, we had a surprise visit from her brother, Ben Fong-Torres, and his wife. This put my mom and her brother at the stove together–a sight I had never seen before. This must have brought back memories for them as they grew up in the family restaurant together helping their father.
I am proud to present our third cooking video: Mom Makes Congee. I have been so lucky to grow up with my mother’s version of this dish in my life and hope you find time to make it for a loved one. Enjoy!
About a month ago Shefali, Kaya, and I had the pleasure of spending almost twenty hours on two planes (with one layover) to travel 8,651 miles to Bangkok, exactly twelve hours ahead (timewise), where we would spend four short days before another two and a half hour flight (on one plane) to Hong Kong for another four short days. Then we came home. End of story. Actually no. We went to Bangkok and Hong Kong to spend our winter break with Shefali’s family in Bangkok and my family in Hong Kong. But more on that in a future (possible) post wherein I just talk about all the “first” foods that Kaya ate. Yeah, I’m that dad.
This post is about pad thai, specifically the pad thai found at Luang Pha Pad Thai restaurant in Bangkok. You know, that place on Maha Chai Road, a stone’s throw from the Wat Saket? Yeah that one. Ok, to be honest, we had some insider knowledge. Shefali’s sister (not Thai) and her husband (Thai) told us about this place a year and a half ago when we visited them. And boy were we appreciative. The flavor of that pad thai and the simple but elegant way it was prepared were etched into my memory. Plus I took lots of photos.
Shef wants this pad thai and bad… This is from our first trip to Luang Pha.
This small woman is a giant among cooks
But seriously, watching this diminutive woman wielding this massive wok reminded me of what a pleasure it is to watch someone who is really good at what they do. Each gesture and motion is effortless, the perfect expression of thought into action. There is no wasted effort – efficiency epitomized. Or, maybe it’s because this is her job and she does it everyday. In any case, the results are ridiculously good. So, this past trip, Shefali and I brought her mom and her sis (and of course Kaya) along to experience quite possibly the perfect pad thai. Please enjoy some photos and be sure to watch the video above which shows this awesome cook in action. You might even learn how to cook some real pad thai. Though good luck finding the shrimp fat oil…
Luang Pha on busy Maha Chai Road. Because pad thai should be enjoyed with the soothing sounds motor scooters zooming by.
This year, pad thai was a family affair
View of the kitchen
Tools of the trade.
This is how she does it.
Mmm… shrimp fat oil.
The stove: an electric fan that blows air into a wood fire to increase the heat. Genius!
Pad thai wrapped in an egg omelet.
Saheli holds Kaya who wishes she could eat this.
Me and the cook. I’m not really a giant. She’s just tiny.