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Jook is what the Cantonese call rice porridge. Frequently eaten either at breakfast or as a late-night snack, jook is a comfort food beloved in many Asian cultures—Chinese, Japanese, Malaysian, Thai, Filipino and more. This homey rice porridge is a delicious way to repurpose your turkey carcass.

EatingWell.com, November 2022

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Recipe Summary

active:
35 mins
total:
3 hrs 5 mins
Servings:
14
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Foh Gai Jook Is a Comforting Post-Thanksgiving Hug

Everyone in my family knows that at the end of Thanksgiving dinner, the turkey carcass goes home with me. I am the standard-bearer keeping a humble and delicious tradition alive that many Chinese Americans and first-generation immigrants share: rice porridge made from the Thanksgiving turkey carcass. In my Cantonese-Toisanese family, we call it foh gai jook (turkey jook, or literally translated to "fire chicken jook"). It's the next-day meal of meltingly soft savory rice porridge made from long-simmered broth of the turkey carcass and rice, and the meal is like a hug, simple and comforting after a more complicated meal and gathering. 

A survivor of World War II, my grandmother knew what it was to experience hunger, to not know where her next meal was coming from. She knew about rationing, and she knew how important it was not to waste food. Living through that generation's great trauma as well as internalizing frugality as a working-class immigrant really shaped how my grandmother approached food. And one of the things she taught me was how to stretch what you had so that you could feed more people. Like that turkey carcass. Just add rice and water, and you can create a delicious dish from a mere pile of bones. 

Growing up, jook was something we ate as a family on cool weekend mornings spent in San Francisco's Chinatown. Before or after a shopping excursion, we'd hit up Hong Kong-style restaurants for jook, fun, mein: porridge, rice noodles and egg noodles. Our table would be laden with Hong Kong-style chow mein with egg noodles fried into crisp pancake-like rounds and topped with a savory meat and vegetable stir-fry; flavorful shrimp and pork wontons floating in bowls of steaming supreme chicken broth, sometimes served with chewy, al dente mein; a plate of mixed Chinese barbecue meats like cha siu, roast duck, roast suckling pig with burnished crackling skin, or soy sauce-marinated chicken, chopped by the sifu, the barbecue master up at the meat counter, and arranged neatly on a platter. 

And there was always jook—seafood-laden tang jai jook, also known as sampan porridge, named after the boats where fishermen once made it, and gup dai jook, a porridge made with a classic combo of pork offal parts. 

As new-ish immigrants focused on working and surviving in America, my parents and grandmother knew little about Thanksgiving–at least they never talked about it. We didn't hold hands or express gratitude at the Thanksgiving meal. In Cantonese, we called it foh gai jeet, essentially, "turkey holiday." It was a day off for working folks. It involved getting together with family to eat a big meal, and a giant oven-roasted bird was part of that meal. We rarely roasted things at home back then, but this was an American tradition we could get into—we knew about big meals with family, and we figured out how to deal with the bird. 

These days, my family Thanksgiving meal typically involves gathering at a beloved aunt's house. She generally handles the turkey, and the rest of us bring sides—mashed potatoes, gravy, pasta salad, sautéed bok choy or Chinese broccoli, salt-and-pepper tofu—and desserts. We pack up the leftovers at the end of the night, and my aunt knows the carcass is all mine. When I wake up the next day, I put the turkey in a large pot, fill the pot with water, add rice and place it on the stove. I curl up on the couch to relax and watch movies while the aroma of jook drifts out from the kitchen. 

When the jook is done, I ladle some into a bowl, top it with sliced scallions, crushed peanuts and some chili crisp, and sit down at the table for lunch. I don't think of hardship. Nor am I celebrating some kind of imaginary meal in which Pilgrims sit down at a table with Native Americans and a cornucopia of fruits and vegetables (all things taught to me in American elementary school). 

That silky, savory porridge reminds me of family, of grandmotherly ingenuity, of parents and grandparents—anyone really—who is responsible for nourishing others. It reminds me of the labor that it takes to feed lots of hungry mouths and the marvelous way home cooks can throw something in a pot and have a hot delicious meal come out with minimal effort. It's food that reminds you that simple can be just as delicious as fancy, and that you can stretch your dollar further with a little immigrant-grandmotherly magic. This Thanksgiving, I am so grateful for this jook, this life and this knowledge.

Ingredients

Ingredient Checklist

Directions

Instructions Checklist
  • Place turkey carcass in a large stockpot. Add just enough water to cover the carcass. Cover the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Uncover and reduce heat to a simmer. Skim off and discard any foam that rises to the top.

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  • Add rice to the pot and return to a boil. Reduce heat to a very low simmer. 

  • Cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally to prevent rice from sticking to the bottom of the pot, until the rice has broken down and the jook has the consistency of a light soupy porridge, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. 

  • Using tongs, remove the turkey carcass or bones. (Be careful as some of the bones may have begun to break down in the liquid.) Let the carcass cool, about 30 minutes, then remove the meat from the carcass.

  • Stir the meat into the porridge along with salt. Garnish the jook with scallions, peanuts and chili crisp, if desired.

To make ahead

Refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze airtight for up to 2 months. Thin with more water or stock, if desired.

Note

You can substitute 2 chicken carcasses for the turkey carcass.

Tip

Chili crisp is a crunchy paste made with fried onions, garlic, chiles and Sichuan peppercorns and seasoned liberally with MSG, sugar and salt. It's often used as a condiment or in cold Sichuan sauces.

Nutrition Facts

1 1/4 cups
169 calories; protein 14g; carbohydrates 20g; fat 3g; saturated fat 1g; mono fat 1g; poly fat 1g; cholesterol 40mg; vitamin b3 niacin 3mg; vitamin b12 1mcg; vitamin c 2mg; vitamin d iu 4IU; folate 93mg; sodium 388mg; calcium 12mg; iron 2mg; magnesium 15mg; phosphorus 97mg; potassium 102mg; zinc 1mg; omega 6 fatty acid 1g; niacin equivalents 4mg; selenium 14mcg.
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