It’s Cold: Time for Jook
As the temperature drops below freezing in parts of the Bay Area, I am always seeking something warm to eat. Rice porridge also known as congee and called “jook” in Chinese is something I love to eat when it is cold.
The basic ingredients of jook is rice, water, and salt and it takes hours to cook over a stove top as the rice has to slowly break down. I have cooked it all day in my crock pot. In order to add flavor, you need to add other ingredients or toppings. Ingredients can range from the inexpensive pork and thousand year old egg to the pricier ones with abalone or frog legs. After Thanksgiving, my family has made a turkey jook and a ham jook. The bones of the turkey or ham add a lot of flavor.
My friend and I recently went out for jook on a cold evening. Hands down the best place for jook in Oakland is Gum Kuo in Chinatown’s Renaissance Plaza. We decided we would share a bowl of jook and a couple other items. It didn’t take long for us to agree we would have jook with filets of fish. The jook at Gum Kuo was super creamy. The flavor was plain tasting until we added the green onions, cilantro, soy sauce, and white pepper. It was tasty, comforting, and hit the spot.
The most popular thing you can order on the side to dip into jook is a fried savory bread stick also known as a Chinese donut. I only like a few pieces so I don’t tend to order it. Popular at Gum Kuo is their made to order rice noodle rolls. These are stuffed with different items and has a sweet soy sauce poured over the top. We ordered my favorite which has crispy roast duck, BBQ pork, and garlic chives. The three ingredients together were harmonious.
The final item we ordered was salty fish and chicken fried rice. You can get chicken fried rice at most Chinese restaurants, but they don’t always have the preserved salty fish for this dish. I can’t recall the last time I had this, but my friend and I were really happy we ordered it because it was the best thing we had this evening.
Gum Kuo is my go-to place for jook and other cheap Chinese comfort foods. Cash only.