If you think porridge is merely the slop that Goldilocks stole from the Three Bears, you need an attitude adjustment. And a history lesson.
by Rachelle "Roach"
Thick bowls of rice porridge have been a comforting, affordable staple of several Asian cuisines for ages. It's one of the best meals you can have for both your belly and your heart, especially with winter right around the corner. The Korean version of porridge is called juk. There are quite a few different preparations, but the base is usually the same: a grain that has been slowly boiled. That grain is often white rice, but there are several versions of the dish using other bases like red azuki beans, sesame, mung beans, or pumpkin. Here's the always-comforting dark red/brown of red bean, or paht, porridge.
Tarakjuk is another simple kind of porridge made with just rice and milk. Not only is it easy to make, but Eyoung and Kaeun from Afterschool can show you exactly how to do it:
You can stop there if you want, with a creamy, restorative bowl of ricey goodness.
But it's also common to add some more ingredients for flavor, more vitamins, and, let's face it, a little color. A poached egg is a fantastic addition to juk, because that runny yolk will add a ton of rich thickness to the soupy texture. Mix-ins like pine nuts, abalone, and beef & vegetables make up some of the other most popular porridge flavor profiles. Restaurants both in and out of Korea also tend to make tasty bowls of porridge that reflect fusion food trends, like cheesy chicken, duck confit, or pork belly. At a juk restaurant, you can also expect your bowl to come complete with banchan, the delicious array of Korean side dishes like kimchi.
Many Koreans turn to specific types of juk for different types of wellness boosts. Hobak juk, or pumpkin porridge, for instance, is thought to be great for people who want to keep their skin and hair healthy because of the high dose of beta-carotene found in its kabocha squash base. It's also relatively low in calories but high in fiber, making many Koreans (including Lee Hi) turn to it when they're on a diet.
A bowl of juk will do the body good at just about any time. Many Koreans like it as a morning meal, as a more soothing wake-up call than a sugary bowl of cereal or an on-the-go yogurt. It's also filling without feeling heavy or greasy, so a hearty bowl of this for breakfast will stop your stomach from starting to rumble at 10 am. Another popular time to enjoy juk is when you're sick or recovering from surgery. The slow boiling of the grain makes it viscous and easy to digest, so it's a great go-to if you're having trouble keeping food down or need something steamy to clear up the sinuses. Think of it as the Korean version of your mom's chicken soup.
Craving a comforting bowl of juk yet? If you don't know where to find any nearby, here's a great recipe for one of the basic versions for you.
Turns out, Goldilocks was on to something. Happy porridge-ing!