Is it weird that I’ve never gotten a flu shot?

I’ve lived 30 years of my life with the explicit mission of getting poked by as little number of needles as possible and it’s done me pretty well so far. But last week, I started to wonder if I need to reconsider my stated mission. Not that I’ve kept track, but looking back, I think I have gotten the flu every time I start to see flyers about getting your flu shots. Hmm…

When I was little, every time I would get sick, my parents would make me eat giant bowls of really bland noodles in a clear soup with a few chunks of fish floating around – what I dubbed ‘sicky noodles’. Even now, when I see ‘fish soup with noodles’ on any menu, I associate it with sickliness and avoid it at all cost. (“Why not order something with taste instead??”)

Unsurprisingly, being sick makes me not want to cook. Well, not much anyway. While I still can’t bring myself to cook ‘sicky noodles’, I have started to believe in the power of jook (or congee, or rice porridge, whatever you want to call it). Jook is probably on the comfort food list of every Cantonese person — even my sister who hated jook when she was young now craves it every so often.

So last Thursday, since I was just laying on the couch feeling miserable, I decided I might as well be useful and babysit a big cauldron of jook I can have for dinner. Jook is easy but takes quite a bit of time – when you’re down with the flu, though, time is something you’ve got plenty of.

Obviously, you can skip the fish and throw in whatever you want. Sometimes I like to break in an egg and let it cook a bit but leave it still runny. Scrambled egg works well too. Chopped thousand-year-old eggs are another favorite. When you’re in the mood, even a plain jook, with some coarse sea salt sprinkled on top, is some fine eating.

1 cup of rice (I used short-grain Japanese rice, but jasmine is fine too)
6-7 cups of cold water
4-5 thin slices of ginger
1/2 lb fillet of any while fish (I got a ‘basa’ from the Chinese market), cut into bite-sized chunks
2 heads of green onion, chopped
soy sauce
ground white pepper

Wash the rice in a few changes of water.

Put rice and water in a large, covered pot over high heat. Make sure you watch the pot as it gets near boiling because it boils over very easily.

Once the water has boiled, lower heat to the lowest possible setting, add in a few pinches of salt (as salty as you like) and ginger. Leave cover partially on – do not try to cover the pot fully or the whole thing will boil over.

Let simmer for 1.5 to 2 hours. You’ll know the jook is done when the rice grains have pretty much fallen apart and the whole thing is thick and ‘creamy’ when you stir it.

If you’re not into eating ginger slices, remove them from the jook.

Season the fish with some salt, then add into the pot.

Let the fish cook. This should just take about 1-2 minutes since the fish will continue to cook as it sits in the scalding hot jook in your bowl.

Ladle out the soup. Garnish with green onions, a drizzle of soy sauce, and a dash of white pepper.

(Makes a whole lot of jook – enough for a few people or a few meals)