Korean style porridge, called juk, is a simply rice, normally white rice, cooked down with 5 times ratio of water to rice, simmered until the grains are broken down to porridge consistency.  It is like grits or oatmeal in many ways, or very toned down version of Chinese congee.  The dish is all about simple nourishment, especially when one is not feeling well.

I was surprised to learn of so many different kinds of porridges. The only juk I ever had growing up was the plain juk.  Not even salt is added – you can’t get any simpler than that – instead, it is served with a little soy sauce and toasted sesame oil on the side.  To me, it was comfort food, that sometimes I’d want it even when I wasn’t sick, to which my Mom would never approve or just think that I was crazy.

I was introduced to abalone porridge by Maangchi, now famous for her YouTube demos on cooking easy Korean dishes.  I wanted to try it as a way to cook the fresh, live abalone that I always see in shops and fish markets. Frankly, I’m not even aware of any other Korean dish that abalone is used in.  The first time I made it, it was good overall but I couldn’t identify the abalone taste, being it my first time to ever try it.  After making it a few times, I now realize the subtle flavour of abalone, which to me it is reminiscent of seaweed with savoury, umami undertones.

This last version is an adapted recipe based on Maangchi, my Korean friend who likes to cook, and my own minor adaptations, like the brown rice.  Obviously it is healthier to use brown rice over white, but it does change the dish significantly.  Fortunately for me, the darker colour, extra texture and flavour of brown rice doesn’t bother me, actually I prefer it, but if you want to best appreciate the delicate flavour of abalone (which is rather expensive), it might be better to use white.

ABALONE PORRIDGE

Serves 2

  • 2 large abalone, approx. 150g of meat
  • 3/4 cup short-grain brown and white rice, soaked, drained
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped celery (optional)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped carrots
  • 1-2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 Tbsp fish sauce
  • salt to taste
  • 1 L water

1.  Rinse the rice several times, then cover with cold water and let it soak for 2 hours.  Drain.

2.  Clean the abalone by brushing the meat and shell under cold water.  Run a paring knife against the shell, moving your knife back and forth to release the meat around the whole shell.  It’s good to do this on a plate as a lot of juices will come out that should be reserved.  Set aside the greenish-brown entrails, finely chopped.  Cut the meat in slices, then again into small pieces.

2.  Heat a heavy bottom pot on medium heat.  Add sesame oil, then the chopped vegetables and garlic.  Saute for a few minutes, then add the drained rice.  Saute on slightly higher heat to toast the rice until it changes to partly translucent colour, about 5 minutes.  Mix in the brownish-green juices and entrails from the abalone.

3.  Add 1 L cold water to the pot, stir to release bits from the bottom.  Bring to a boil, and reduce the heat to low.  Cover and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4.  Stir in chopped abalone meat.  Cover, and cook for another 10-15 minutes, or until thick, creamy consistency is reached.

5.  Season with fish sauce and salt to taste.  At the very end, finish with just a few drops of toasted sesame oil, and serve.  (Note: can be garnished with chopped green onion or crushed roasted laver).

Abalone meat de-shelled, and the effervescent pearl shells with the entrails.

Abalone meat cut into bite sized pieces.

Abalone juk simmering away...reminds me of making risotto.

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