English language and culture have lead us to perceive porridge as less than, an unexciting meal of gruel, mush, slop. But to me there is little more comforting than a bowl of jok, or Thai rice porridge. Easy on the stomach, with plenty of liquid to rehydrate, it is the perfect meal when both under the weather and recovering from being under the table.
💭 Jok general knowledge + recipe notes
Many of you will already be familiar with Chinese rice porridge, what we know as congee. While many people consider this comfort staple to always be made from rice, there are many regional variations in China that utilise other grains like millet, sorghum, corn, barley, beans, or a mixture of these and other ingredients. I’d wager there are similar variations in Thailand as well, but rice is definitely the best known base ingredient in the kingdom.
In Cantonese, which is spoken in some Southern parts of China, congee is referred to as jook. Given historical migration patterns from China into Thailand, that is likely how the Thai variant came to be called jok (pronounced like the word joke).
Ambiguous though it might be, for the purposes of this post I mostly use the words jok and congee interchangeably.
In terms of Thai cuisine, we can think of jok as late stage khao tom, which is a boiled rice soup where the individual grains are softened but retain some individual structure. Jok, the on the other hand, is cooked until the starches have leaked out and the grains collapse into a silky porridge.
Jok is typically made with broken rice, a byproduct of the rice-milling process. Broken rice, if steamed, results in a clammy mess due to the starches in the rice. Alas, that which is defective for one method of cooking is desirable for another; with jok the goal is to break down the rice to unlock the starches further. Hence broken rice is perfect for congee.
If you don’t have access to or don’t want to buy broken rice, you can just pulse some jasmine rice in a food processor quickly to achieve the right effect.
The consistency of jok or congee is down to personal preference. I’ve enjoyed both stew-like and thin, watery bowls. Both have their appeals, but my everyday preference is for something in between. Regardless, I find it best to start with less liquid and add more later if a soupier consistency is desired. The one litre of water or stock I call for in my recipe will produce a porridge with some density. If this isn’t to your taste, simple add more liquid at the end in order to obtain your desired consistency.
The vegan jok recipe below is designed for the Instant Pot, but jok can also be made by the traditional stovetop method. This approach will necessitate more water or stock (the pressure cooking method contains the liquid so it can’t evaporate like it does if cooked on the hob).
There are as many ways to prepare jok or congee as there are people making it. This one is loosely based on a commonly found version in Thailand that is topped with bouncy pork balls (made with garlic, coriander root, and white pepper); julienned fresh ginger; a sprinkling of chopped fresh herbs like coriander and/or spring onion; a good shake of ground white pepper; and sometimes pa thong ko (fried Chinese doughnuts) or fried puffed rice noodles.
I like to use a fresh stock packed with umami rich dried shiitake and sometimes kombu, but water and salt are perfectly permissible. You also should not underestimate the moreishness of MSG-laden stock powder/cubes, or the ubiquitous mushroom seasoning used in vegetarian Thai and Vietnamese cooking.
Vegan jok (Thai congee) โจ๊ก
- Instant Pot
Jok (rice porridge)
- 120 grams broken jasmine rice (scant ¾ cup)
- 4 cups stock or water (recipe below)
- ½ teaspoon salt omit if the stock you use is not sodium free
- 5-6 large dried shiitake mushrooms
- 1 small stick celery (30 grams)
- 3 tablespoons chopped coriander stems or ¼ packed cup if contains leaves
- 5 large cloves garlic smashed
- 20 grams sliced ginger
- 8 grams kombu (small piece)
- 15 white peppercorns broken lightly using a pestle and mortar
- 175-200 grams daikon cut into chunks
- 1 ½ litres water (six 250 millilitre cups)
- 5-6 used shiitake mushrooms from the stock squeezed of liquid (back into stock)
- vegetable oil for frying
- 100 millilitres water or above stock
- 1 ½ teaspoons palm sugar
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon seasoning sauce
- ½ teaspoon dark soy sauce
- Good grate of black pepper
- 2 teaspoons chopped coriander stems
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 5 white peppercorns
- 2 ½ tablespoons water
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon seasoning sauce
- ½ teaspoon vegetable oil
- 3 tablespoons small TVP mince (18 grams)
- 2 ½ tablespoons vital wheat gluten (25 grams)
- 2 tablespoons all purpose flour (19 grams)
- 2 tablespoons tapioca starch (16 grams)
- Thai thin soy sauce (e.g. Healthy Boy brand)
- ⅓ cup (ish) chopped coriander and/or spring onions
- ¼-⅓ cup (ish) finely julienned ginger
- white pepper
Additional optional toppings
- fried garlic and the oil it was fried in
- pa thong go (Thai style Chinese doughnut)
- puffed fried rice noodles (mee grop)
- fermented tofu
- fermented mushroom sausage (naem hed)
- toasted sesame oil
- fried shallots and the oil they were fried in
- pickled mustard greens
- Vegg yolk
- Add broken rice, stock or water, and salt to your instant pot and set the manual option to high for 30 minutes. Cook in sealed position and allow pressure to release naturally when finished. Do not release the pressure manually unless you want rice goop splattered about your kitchen.Check the consistency and add more water and/or stock if desired.You can also cook it on the hob. To do this, add ingredients to a saucepan and bring to the boil. Knock back to a gentle simmer and cook for around an hour, stirring occasionally (be sure to scrape the bottom). For the stovetop method you will need more liquid, which you can top up as you go.
- Add ingredients to a pot and bring to the boil. Turn down to a low simmer and cook for 45-60 minutes, covered.To make in instant pot: Add all ingredients and cook sealed for 20 minutes on low pressure. Natural release.
- Allow the stock to cool a little and strain solids, reserving the stock. Save the mushrooms, which you can use in the next recipe.
- Make sure the mushrooms have been squeezed of as much liquid as possible. Heat at least 2 centimetres worth of vegetable oil for frying to a medium heat in a wok. Fry the mushrooms for 3-5 minutes, until golden. Drain on kitchen towel. When cool, slice into ½ centimetre thick pieces.
- Allow the oil to cool and remove all but 2-3 teaspoons worth. Add remaining ingredients and bring to the boil before adding the sliced fried mushrooms. Knock down heat to a medium simmer for 5 or so minutes, until there is very little liquid remaining. The remaining sauce should be syrupy.
- Set up a steamer and bring to the boil. Pop a plate inside if you have one that fill fit (otherwise some foil will do).
- Pound coriander stems, garlic, and peppercorns into a paste using a pestle and mortar. Add water, soy sauce, seasoning sauce and oil. Give it a quick mix with the pestle.
- Combine remaining (dry) ingredients in a medium bowl. Mix to combine. Add wet mix from mortar and mash together with your hands. It might be a shaggy dough but that’s okay.
- Pinch bits off into teaspoon (ish) lumps and place in the steamer. Steam for 20-30 minutes.
- Divide the jok between 3-4 bowls (or 2, if you're very hungry). Dash a few shakes of soy sauce over the porridge. Divide the mushrooms and faux pork between the bowls. Add a handful of chopped spring onion and/or coriander plus a generous tablespoon of finely julienned fresh ginger. Shake some white pepper on the lot and serve. Bring the soy sauce to the table so you can season it further, if need be.You can add any of the additional toppings too. My photo includes fermented bean curd and fried garlic and its oil (but I forgot the mushrooms).
🍚 Some jok / congee variations
I eat a lot of congee. Here are a few different bowls for you to get an idea of how varied toppings can be.