blood warming

recently got back from a trip to nz to see all my rellies. it was so lovely to be back in the familial bosom. pity the weather was so gruesome. never mind. had yummy eats at my nana’s house to console ourselves. even just the smell of my nana’s house made me think of my childhood. it has remained the same all these years, and i don’t think it will ever change. that’s a good thing.

the first night we were there we had, among other things, watercress soup with rice. mmmm. this soup always makes me think of my nana, eating at her table overlooking what used to be farmland, but is now houses. watercress soup doesn’t have a strong flavour, but it is mild and very warming. my nana says that it warms the blood, so is good when you have a cold or are feeling the onset of one.

while i was there i also ate mountains of my other childhood fave, steamed red bean paste buns. yum! but i only really like the bun bit, with just a smear of the bean paste (too sweet) to each mouthful. so i would scoop out the paste and give it to my mum, who loves it. when there weren’t any red bean buns i settled for char siew buns (bbq pork).

an auntie supplies nana with home-made fresh dim sum so they went into the steamer as well. totally delicious and translucently slippery, dipped in dark soy sauce. reminder to self: must improve chopstick technique!

towards the end of our stay we were all feeling the effects of the awful cold weather and biting wind, so nana made a big pot of jook (rice porridge, or congee). there can’t be anything more comforting than being blown inside by galeforce winds and sitting down to a few bowlfuls of jook with assorted condiments and additions. we ate ours with chicken, dried fish powdery stuff (i don’t know what it is called), fresh coriander, soy sauce, and thousand year old eggs (a really gross greyish blue colour, but supposedly excellent for the digestion. stinky, too). lola esp. loved it, she had bowlful after bowlful.

watercress soup

– big bunch of watercress
– pork bones
– chicken leg
– salt

– note: this is a very approximate recipe!

– wash and clean watercress.
– put in a big pot and cover with fresh water
– add some pork bones (no idea how many, sorry!)
– add a leg or two of chicken for sweetness
– bring to the boil and simmer for a few hours, skimming if necessary
– add salt to taste (it should be a very mild soup)
– ladle out a bowlful of the soup, not forgetting the cress and maybe a few bits of chicken, and add rice to the soup as you like.


– 1/2 cup of rice (white, or for a more nutritious version, brown)
– salt
– chicken leg or two

– this is very simple to make. great for winter! it is also great for breakfast, but after a lifeteime of eating western-style brekkies is it hard to think of something so savoury and um, dinner-like as breakfast. millions of people do, i know (reminds me of the ads we saw for the breakfast menu McCongee at McDonalds in singapore), but i’m just not in the habit.

– wash rice well under cold water.
– put in a big pot and fill the pot 3/4 full (i understand this is very approximate, yet again!) with cold water.
– add chicken leg/s for sweetness
– bring to the boil and simmer for a few hours until it reaches a thick, porridge-like consistency. stir every once in a while to prevent sticking.
– add salt to taste

– consume gratefully with soy sauce, coriander, fresh spring onions, sesame oil, stinky eggs, dried fish stuff, bbq pork, fish etc etc

– note: you could also make jook using chicken stock if you want a more flavoursome meal. substitute the water with stock, all or half the amount.

i shall definitely be making pots and pots of jook this winter!


9 thoughts on “blood warming

  1. I enjoyed reading this; would love to have been there sharing with you. How lovely that the children have now shared in this cultural heritage and have met your Nana in person.

  2. Watercress soup AND jook (or as we also call it in Hokkien, mai) is one of my family favourites too. Very consoling and warming though so simple. Jook can also be cooked in a variety of flavours like – fish:simmer white boneless fillets in it and serve with scallions and white pepper or sweet potato: drop in a few pieces of sweet potato to add a different texture to the porridge.

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