Rice porridge is served to the sick, young and old, but it can also be enjoyed as part of a Korean meal at other times. Abalone porridge was most common in the southern coastal parts of Korea and especially on Cheju Island, but it's a comfort food for most Koreans. Jook, in general, is what chicken soup is to Americans—a soothing, medicinal meal.
- 1 cup white rice
- 1/2 cup abalone, removed from the shell, cleaned and cut into thin strips
- 1 to 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- Soy sauce to taste
- Soak rice for 3 hours before cooking.
- Heat the sesame oil in a deep pan or pot and gently stir-fry the abalone.
- Next, add the rice and 6 cups of water and bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat when it comes to a boil and then cover the pan.
- Simmer for 35 to 45 minutes, depending on how you like the consistency of your rice porridge.
- Stir from time to time and watch that it doesn't bubble over or lose too much steam.
- Serve with soy sauce on the side for seasoning.
A Short History of Abalone Porridge in Korea
Fish, shellfish, and sea vegetables play a major part of the Korean table and if you look at a map it's easy to see why: Korea is a peninsula. For centuries, fish and shellfish like clams, oysters, and abalone played a major part of the common diet. Meat, difficult to come by in the mountainous terrain, was reserved for the upper class and royal court.
Abalone porridge (jun book jook) is a special dish from Cheju (Jeju) Island, where abalones are abundant.
According to the Jeju Weekly: “Beneath the sparkling Jeju surf and the hulls of fishing boats carving through the waves is a creature of culinary legend – the abalone. This shellfish, found feeding on seaweed in only the cleanest waters of the ocean, forms a vital part of Jeju cuisine and holds an elevated position as the 'Emperor of Shellfish' not only in Korea, but the world over.
"During the Joseon Dynasty, abalone was presented to the Emperor as a gourmet gift, often alongside tangerines which were also considered the food of royalty. Long held as the 'ginseng' of the sea, the abalone was felt to contain almost otherworldly powers of restoration and fortification for the body. Legend tells that the Chinese Emperor Gin Shi Hwang traveled to Jeju in search of eternal youth and upon discovering Jeju abalone, declared it the elixir of life."
Abalone on Cheju (Jeju) Island and the seaside Korean city of Busan are harvested by local fisherwomen who can dive deep and stay underwater for long periods of time:
Busan's haenyeo "mermaids" dive for seafood without using any breathing aids. Many can dive up to depths of 20 meters and stay underwater for as long as two minutes.