Leftover Turkey Recipe: Chinese Congee (Rice Porridge or Jook)

Turkey Congee

A few Thanksgivings ago, we packed the kids in the minivan and headed to Orlando to my brother-in-law’s for a “Boston Market Takeout Thanksgiving.” Oh, don’t groan, it really wasn’t bad at all. While you were all scrubbing layers of grease off your pans, all we did was crumple up take out containers. The best part of celebrating the holidays with people who don’t cook is knowing that the entire turkey carcass is MINE…..ALL MINE.

Such a silly thing to be smug about, but I consider the endless potential of leftover bones just as exciting as the roasted turkey itself. And since we only have turkey once or twice a year, I act like Tom of Tom & Jerry with icons of turkey flashing in my eyes. I could make stock (freeze and use throughout the year), gumbo, casserole, soup and my favorite….Turkey Congee (rice porridge)

Normally, when I spend holiday dinners with other cooks and chefs, it’s a silent game of strategy. But how would you politely and tactfully be the first to lay dibs on the turkey bones if you are a guest? Since many of you will have turkey again for Christmas dinner, I’m going to share my secrets with you. But if you continue through to read…you’ve just waived away your right to use these tricks against me. Deal?

How to tactfully lay dibs on the turkey bones

I’m going to divide this strategy lessons into 3 parts. Before, during and after the meal.

Before the meal

  • The moment you hang up your jacket and take off your shoes – begin your distraction technique. The cook has been up since 4 a.m. washing, chopping, baking, boiling, roasting for this one meal. Their mind is totally focused all the way up to the point of END OF DESSERT COURSE. Talk only about the meal itself. Do not bring up the subject of “leftovers” or “turkey bones.” If anyone else brings up the subject, quickly cut them off and say:

“Do I smell something burning?” BUT you can only play this “burning card” this ONCE in the evening. Any more than that, you might not be invited back next year.

  • Offer to carve the turkey. Do NOT let that turkey go uncarved to the table. If the turkey gets carved at the table, those sexy turkey bones are exposed in front of the entire table and game over. Now everyone is thinking about potential recipes for turkey bones.

Turkey Congee

During the meal

  • The seat closest to the kitchen is the MONEY SEAT. Before everyone else arrives, discreetly crumple up the napkin and take a drink from the water glass at that seat to lay claim.
  • When the cook triumphantly announces, “Dinner is ready!” elegantly (but quickly) sashay to the table and stand behind the chair that you want. You can’t be the first to sit down, that would be rude and way too obvious. But just one hand casually leaning against the back of the chair is fine.
  • Towards end of the meal, keep an eye for anyone finishing early. Do whatever you can to keep them at the table. Strike up engaging conversation with them. Ask OPEN ENDED QUESTIONS.

After the meal

  • Be the first to signal the end of dinner and establish dominance by puffing up your chest, stretching arms out and pushing your chair out.

“Thank you for a lovely meal, name of host. It was truly a delightful Thanksgiving dinner! Let me help you clear the table.” and proceed to take your plate to the kitchen. Your host will surely follow behind you with an armful of dishes.

  • If someone other than cook follows you before host can get to kitchen, BLOCK and REDIRECT.

“Oh, is that cranberry on your collar? That is going to stain! Quick! Take my Tide to Go stain pen.”

  • With only you and cook in kitchen, stand over the turkey carcass, make a big SIGH, and say:

“Wow, that’s a lot of leftover turkey. You’ll be eating turkey for weeks!”

  • By now, the host will be so stuffed of turkey, sick of turkey, focused on the piles of dirty dishes that she/he will not even think twice when you say:

“I’d love to take the bones home, may I?”


Now you can make Turkey Congee, or rice porridge:


To me, the most successful leftover turkey dishes do NOT TASTE LIKE LEFTOVER TURKEY. There are countless recipes floating out on the web, but if it just tastes like Thanksgiving turkey but in a different form, what’s the point?

Here’s the secret to making your turkey congee taste incredibly wonderful – dried scallops and dried shrimp.

dried scallops and dried shrimp

You can find both in Asian markets. You only use a few pieces of each and it adds that mysterious “umami” dimension to your turkey congee. If you don’t have either, that is fine, you can substitute with any of the following:

  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 1 cup instant dashi stock
  • 3-4 DRIED shitake black mushrooms
  • saute 1/2 diced onion + 4 ounces chopped fresh mushrooms

Turkey congee Recipe


Turkey Congee (Rice Porridge) Recipe

Servings: Prep Time: Cook Time:
recipe for turkey rice porridge


Leftover turkey bones (about 1/2 of the bones - save the other half for making stock or whatever)
2 carrots, cut into large dice
3 stalks of celery, cut into large dice
2 tablespoons dried shrimp (optional)
6 whole dried scallops (optional)
9 cups water
1 cup raw rice
2 tablespoons cooking oil
2 cups cooked turkey meat, shredded
fish sauce or soy sauce to taste


1. Soak dried scallops and shrimp in 1 cup of hot water for 10 minutes. With your hands, separate the bones into large pieces (no smaller than 3"). In a large stockpot, heat cooking oil over medium-low heat. When hot, add carrots and celery and cook for 3-5 minutes until soft. Add turkey bones and water to pot.

2. With your fingers, shred the scallops into small pieces. Add scallops, shrimp and the soaking water to broth. Turn heat to high and let boil. Immediately turn heat to low and add raw rice.Simmer uncovered or partially covered for 45 minutes, up to 2 hours until rice has thickened into congee. Do not stir while it is cooking. Just leave it alone so that the rice can thicken undisturbed. Stir in cooked turkey meat.

3. Taste, add fish sauce or soy sauce to taste. Start with 1 tablespoon first and add in 1/2 tsp at a time until you reach perfect seasoning.

More Recipes:

Vegetable Fried Rice Why we ate nothing but vegetables for 2 weeks.

Vietnamese Chicken Pho Chicken Pho (Vietnamese Noodle Soup)

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Comments 71

  1. Ember

    Oh, great tips! They probably work well for making sure you get first dibs on loading up one of the leftover plates as well.

    Gotta remember to bring my Tide pen next year 😉

  2. Neece

    Oh my gosh, I really could have used these tips! I would have stashed my Tide to Go pen in my purse! HA! This is excellent advice for Christmas and next year though, thank you so much.
    Wouldn’t you know, my family was going to throw that baby in the trash! I sat next to it and laid claim, then we had to figure out how to get it home. I took all the drippings too, but Jaden, I’ve never had a turkey carcass before, so it’s sitting in my fridge waiting for me! I’m kinda lost! It’s a beautiful thing, though. And I shall tackle it today with your above advice.

  3. Beerme

    I absolutely love this soup made with chicken (the Asian cure-all). I absolutely drive my family nuts because I make several batches in a row and eat almost all of it myself, every fall during allergy season. But, don’t you think it needs some hot chile garnish? Really works on the sinuses!
    I like the addition of dried shrimp and dried scallops, though…I think I’ll try it this way!

  4. Syd

    OMG, you are funny.

    Only, now I am angrier at my grandmother for macking the entire carcass for her god damned dog. Her DOG!! Grrrr

  5. Mandy

    thanks for the recipe. I am just thinking about what to do with the turkey carcass other than making stock! How come I never thought of “jok!”

  6. joanne

    Finally these last two years the turkey carcass is mine. Being a dutiful daughter, I could not tell my mother in law no, and my grandmother no. I make two turkeys each holiday! One for my house which my mother in law would take home and let rot in her freezer for however long the procrastinating witch wanted, and the other for my mother’s celebration in which the eldest relative being my 80 year old grandmother would take.

    We moved across country so now the Thanksgiving turkey is all mine. I’ve chopped it in half for jook, and for a more American turkey soup.

    The only downside, I miss my mother’s roast beef. But there is always the Christmas get together!

  7. bruce

    Hey J…off topic (but did love your video and have turkey congee on the “to eat” list!), but last night when I got home w had your garlic brandy prawns going. Fucking awesome edibles! We LOVED it. Just had to give some props from my happy tummy!

  8. Lynn

    Oh, Jaden, you are so devious. Obviously a worthy foe in the annual struggle for turkey carcass ownership. I’ve made mine into broth already, but it’s traditional in my family to fashion a daring turkey carcass handbag from it. Look for one in finer stores near you.

  9. StickyGooeyCreamyChewy

    I am laughing my butt off! I’m embarrassed to say that I have pulled almost everyone of those tricks at one time or another, especially the ones for staking out my place at the table. This is why I finally volunteered to be the official family Thanksgiving hostess. I always serve turkey AND a honey baked ham. I’m living off of those bones for weeks!

  10. Zenchef

    hahahaha…i’m laughing so hard right now. Have you ever thought about tackling the person who might get to the kitchen first? The end of the meal would look like a football game. hehehe
    Being the chef, i never had that problem. I OWN the turkey carcass if someone gets too close i show them the teeth.
    I’m glad you got it, your recipe is a very nice use for it! 🙂

  11. Richa

    hey Jaden, just thot of dropping u a line. i stopped by chef hari nayak’s book signing yest and remembered ur contest, and yes i did mention that to him. there was butternut squash soup tasting from his book and it was delicious.

  12. Miss T

    Great post. See, this is the main reason I always have to host. I won’t take a chance on winding up sans-carcass after Turkey Day!

  13. David

    Considering the turkey cost our hostess around $300 (actually, I think it was more!) I just felt I had to leave it behind. But I could barely sleep knowing that she probably chucked that meaty monster after we all left. I didn’t want to be….um…rude or anything

    ; )

    But sadly, no jook for me…who’s the loser now?

  14. Graeme

    I keep hearing about Congee. I have to try it – More specifically, I have to try this one.

    It looks fantastic.

  15. Katie

    At our last ‘American Thanksgiving’ in Andorra, one of the crazier neighbors stole the turkey – before the hostess had a chance to even get back to the kitchen sh say him running down the road with the carcass….
    I’ll try to remember your hints – the bones are often the best part!

  16. Lillian

    haha, you are hilarious! my parents also made jook with our turkey carcass. it is oh so delicious.

  17. dwiana

    OMG…. your porridge absolutely just YUMMY! I made one before while ago and now I am thinking to make some after looking at your posting.

  18. TikiPundit

    A humorous and well-written post. And, much more sophisticated and delicate than I would do — I supposed I’d charge into the kitchen with a shark-tooth club and just STEAL the darn carcass!!

  19. Cynthia

    Love the strategies! Man, you got this all figured out haven’t you? 🙂

    I have some dried shrimps I got from Guyana and will try making this soup. A couple of questions, can I double the amount of shrimp since I don’t have the dried scallops? And I can make this with chicken too right?

  20. Amanda

    My in laws are Italian and they make this fabulous sausage and mushroom dish for Thanksgiving. It’s my favorite and I wanted to stake claim on the leftovers so I just sashayed up and asked with absolutely no clout whatsoever. I guess they have to invite me back next year because I’m family, but thanks for the lesson on having a little more tact next year. 🙂

  21. Jaded

    It’s too bad I didn’t snag that huge turkey carcass from my mom. She actually stayed in the kitchen during most of dinner to tend to the bird. Now that I think about it, she was probably guarding it from me. At the end of dinner I asked if she was going to “bow jook” and she said “Yep! It’s too bad you don’t live at home anymore, otherwise you can have some.” Curses!!! *shakes fist at cieling*

  22. chiffonade

    My employer, who is Chinese, just mentioned Turkey Congee to me this morning! It sounded yummy and yours looks great!

    You said: “Do NOT let that turkey go uncarved to the table.”

    And here I was beating myself up because I didn’t bring the intact turkey to the table giving my guests that “Norman Rockwell” shot! Thanks…I carved in the kitchen.


  23. Lindsay

    love love LOVE this post.
    (yes, i managed to steal the turkey carcass from my boyfriend’s family’s canadian thanksgiving dinner earlier in the fall… if i were to steal from less familial company, i’ll keep your tips in mind!!!)

    now i want turkey congee.

  24. Nate 2.0

    We roasted our turkey at home, and sure enough the next day we made turkey jook out of the carcass. My pic doesn’t look anywhere near as gorgeous as yours though.

    BTW, break a leg!

  25. Julie

    hilarious post…. Turkey congee the day after Thanksgiving is a family tradition of mine… love it, love it, love it.

  26. Mikey

    This post got me very much in a jook kinda mood for the week.

    Question: what kind of results have you, or anyone else, had with using a slow cooker. I remember my mother used to take the better part of a day to make a steaming pot of jook, so I’m suspicious this 1-hour method won’t allow the starches to be released into the water, and this will be a somewhat more liquid-y version.

    That said, I’m a painfully stuck-up and self-important businessman that doesn’t have time to man a stovetop of rice-y water all day. A slow cooker seems right intuitively, but wondering if anyone else has experienced Jook Success via crock pot.


  27. tigerfish

    Happy Holidays to you and your family!

    Turkey, chicken, duck, whatever, I will make sure the carcass is not wasted. I love the touch of dried scallops and dried shrimps in congee. 😀

  28. Kirk

    Hey Jaden – When I was growing up, my Mom and I would rather have had the Jook, than the roasted turkey…….it was the highlite of Thanksgiving weekend.

  29. Chef Mua'Dib

    Much Fun! Here I have no bone thieves because of long standing tradition. The bones go to sleep in the deep freeze, and get awakened on the first day of summer, to be sacrificed in the making of Turkey soup. We have a big party which everyone has looked forward to, and all eat the soup!

  30. Kevin

    Amazing photos! This dish sounds really tasty. I have never tried a congee before. I will have to look for the dried scallops and dried shrimp.

  31. Nan

    Oh my god, hilarious. At Thanksgiving this year I was THINKING of asking for the turkey carcass, but I couldn’t think of a way to do it without sounding like a hobo (I mean, starving grad student is kind of the same thing). If only I had had your directions….. 😉

  32. andersau

    I have cooked congee in a slow cooker, and it works really well. I leave it on overnight, and the next morning it is perfect. I use brown rice – 1 cup to 10 cups water (or stock) and whatever other ingredients I choose.

    Do not stir it, as once the starches are released into the liquid it stick and burn. Otherwise it is very easy to do and delicious.

  33. LunaPierCook

    If I carved the turkey at the table, I’d get laughed out of the house! My kitchen knifing skills aren’t too bad, but my “elegance in carving” skills are probably worse than those of Weird Al’s near-sighted surgeon.

  34. chiffonade

    Luna – I love your term “kitchen knifing skills!”

    I carve the turkey by taking off the entire breast half and slicing it on the board. The slices are a little thicker but much more uniform in size and much neater. I think it’s a Julia Child method.


  35. Winne

    This is absolutely the best part of Thanksgiving (minus the sticky rice package for thanksging stuffing). We do this every year! Love the post! I will remember this if I do thanksgiving at another’s house 🙂

  36. jessica

    Oh man. We cooked a turkey last week for Thanksgiving, whose bones my mom had already called because she bought the turkey. This week, we cooked another one because there weren’t sufficient leftovers to satisfy our turkey lust. So, we roasted our bird, i asked my husband to cut off all the meat, and i went and changed my son. When i came back down to the kitchen, i went in to find MY HUSBAND THROWING OUT THE TURKEY BONES. Seriously, time went in slow motion and i said “NOOO!” and my brain saw the noise waves going out into the universe, and the bones were gone. Sigh.

  37. Andrea

    Oh Jaden you are a foxy one for those turkey bones! Got mine simmering away right now for stock. There’s a reason they call it liquid gold. 🙂

    By the way we brined the turkey this year and it was FABULOUS.


  38. jon

    Nice dish – nothing fancy but quality home cooking. The scallops do add a nice mystery flavor. Black mushrooms (reconstituted) also add a nice depth of flavor here.

  39. Erica

    Thank you so much for this recipe! I was craving congee like none other, and we had tons of turkey left overs and so I decided to do a search and found this recipe! I didn’t have the dried scallops and whatnot, and had to adjust due to a lack of some of the other ingredients but I made some awfully tasty congee and I’m sad that it’ll be gone by tonight.

  40. tube62

    This week, we cooked another one because there weren’t sufficient leftovers to satisfy our turkey lust. So, we roasted our bird, i asked my husband to cut off all the meat, and i went and changed my son. When i came back down to the kitchen.tube62.com

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