I’m only as Korean as my next meal.
What makes me Korean? Certainly my parents made me so. But what about the food I eat?
I get my love of eating mostly from my mom. I gather we come from a long line of women who like to eat. And when we do eat, we like to eat good, and so we tend to be choosey with our ingredients, taking further steps to fuss over prepping them the right way.
Like rice for instance.
I think about rice all the time. I consider its many beneficial properties and its longstanding value for Koreans as a whole––and for many others throughout the globe.
I think that as long as you have rice––and some sides––you’ll always have a meal. And as long as you have rice, you will always have porridge (that’s 죽 to you and me). But this porridge is not exactly the version you’d find in Chinese restaurants. That’s congee, equally delicious, but not quite the same stuff that Korean moms make for their families.
My mom made me this rice porridge whenever I was sick and couldn’t keep anything else down. Not that that is the only time you could eat it, but that is is one of the best times to eat it.
And it was a good way for those Korean cooks to stretch their sacks of rice, more precious than gold during those trying times.
But there’s beauty in this dish. So simple and pure––you don’t even add salt! Its utter simplicity allows you to focus on the main ingredient, and there’s no way around it. It’s all about the flavor and viscosity of the rice, and if you do the recipe right, you’ll get those in spades.
Yeah, I do feel pretty Korean when I’m eating this.
Rice Porridge (죽)
1 cup rice, soaked in water for an hour and drained well
4 cups water
garnishes: soy sauce, sesame oil, sesame seeds
1. Heat about a tablespoon of sesame oil in a pot. Add rice and stir for 4 -5 minutes.
2. Add the water and bring to a boil.
3. Stir once, lower the heat as low as it can go and cover with the lid. Let simmer.
3. Check on the rice after 10-15 minutes. You may need to leave the lid open a little so the porridge won’t boil over. The porridge is done when the rice is translucent and most of the liquid has been absorbed.
4. Serve right away with a drizzle of soy sauce, sesame oil and sesame seeds.