Jook Joints

Okay, it’s not pronounced “juke,” and it’s not pronounced ‘”tuck.” It’s not “chook” or “duck” or any other sound readily pronounced by an American mouth (yet it’s somehow a combination of all three). It’s Korean (tdkch) jook, and it’s the ultimate comfort food.

When October starts to get serious, when brown leaves start blowing around our ankles, and it gets really chilly in the old house that we’re too cheap to sufficiently heat—we fall back in love with jook. In particular, we love the salty, stew-y, chicken-y version available at Kang Suh (2375 Central Park Ave, 914-771-4066). Kang Suh’s jook is a silken, off-white stew with juicy shreds of chicken in a richly meaty rice porridge. It’s starchy, slightly glossy and denser than liquid, plus, jook holds it heat—each gulp practically scalds our chest. With each satisfied swallow, we imagine the agonized death of those nasty Mucinex creatures lurking in our rattling lungs. To us, Kang Suh’s jook feels curative, like just what the doctor ordered.

Jook is an elemental food, nothing fancy, but also totally archetypal. It’s Ur-food, and every culture’s got some: look at polenta, mashed potatoes, grits, porridge, or oatmeal. In fact, we came to love jook through that other Asian rice-based hot porridge, congee, served in that trippy, tiki-themed LES madhouse, Congee Village. That’s where we first met the Cantonese dish, but we’ve also found soul-stirring congee at Aberdeen (3 Barker Ave, White Plains 914-288-0188). It’s only available on Saturday, and only from 11am-3pm. And if you ask for congee, be prepared to justify yourself—the waiter has learned that it’s an unusual request from westerners, who might not know what they’re choosing. He’ll say, “It’s rice porridge. Are you sure you want rice porridge?” You should say, especially if your toes are cold, or you’re coming down with a cold, or simply feeling unloved.

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