Friday, January 25, 2013

Arroz Caldo (Filipino Rice Porridge)

Arroz Caldo
With the cold winter season in full effect, the chiller temperatures have me craving childhood comfort foods. As a young girl, my Mom would whip up a warm bowl of arroz caldo, rice porridge with chicken, to help settle me after a tough day at school or to give me strength to fight a cold. Arroz caldo is like the Filipino version of chicken noodle soup, offering a delicious remedy to nurse the weary back to health! 
Did you know: Rice porridge or congee is a staple in many Asian countries and despite the countless variations, they all consist of rice that is slowly cooked in water or broth to give the soupy meal that distinct soft and creamy texture. 
Arroz caldo truly embodies the diversity and richness of Philippines' history. While the name is a Spanish term meaning "rice soup", the soup itself reflects its Chinese influences of congee, which is rice cooked in water or broth for long periods of time until it develops a thick porridge consistency. In the Philippines, congee is also referred to as "lugaw" in Tagalog.
Did you know:  Arroz caldo is influenced by the Spanish colonial settlers who adapted the dish to their taste by adding saffron and black pepper.  
Often served as a meal on its own, arroz caldo is made with chicken, ginger, onions and garlic then garnished with slices of hardboiled egg, chopped green onions and crispy fried garlic. I like adding some fresh lemon or calamansi juice 
to help brighten up all the flavours. 
Did you know: Lugaw is the Filipino variation of Chinese congee but boiled with fresh ginger and traditionally served with tokwa't baboy (diced tofu & pork), calamansi and patis (fish sauce).
To help give you that extra boost of TLC during these colder days, try making a batch of warm and hearty arroz caldo. The perfect meal that can bring comfort to all ages. 

Ingredients for Arroz Caldo
Ingredients:
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 medium white onion, chopped
- 1 tbsp ginger, grated
- 1 lb of chicken thighs (or 4 pieces), cut in half
- 1 cup white uncooked rice
- 4 cups of low sodium chicken broth
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp patis (fish sauce)
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/8 tsp of saffron
- 1/4 cup of green onions, chopped
- fried garlic pieces
- 1 lemon, cut into wedges or calamansi, cut in half
- 3 hard boiled eggs, sliced 
- patis to taste
Tasty Tip: To keep your extra ginger from going bad simply place unpeeled ginger in a freezer-safe container and pop it in the freezer. Then to use the ginger, remove a piece from the freezer and grate as much as you need. There is no need to thaw it first; in fact, frozen ginger is easier to grate than fresh.
Preparation:
1) In a large sauce pan, heat vegetable oil to medium heat then saute onions until soft and translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add garlic then saute for another minute.
2) Add chicken thighs and fresh ginger. Cook the chicken until it's half way done and the skin turns a golden brown, 5 minutes. Add the uncooked rice and stir with chicken for 2 minutes.
3) Pour in the chicken broth, soy sauce, patis and pepper. Bring the broth to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Taste the soup and adjust your seasonings accordingly. Make sure to stir occasionally until the rice is fully cooked, 35 to 40 minutes, to ensure the rice grains break down. 
4) Once rice has been cooked, add the saffron for colour and additional flavourings. 
5) Serve your arroz caldo immediately while hot and garnish with pieces of hardboiled eggs, green onions, fried garlic and lemon or calamansi wedges. Masarup!!      
Try this: Substitute the chicken with prawns, pork or Chinese sausage. For those heat seekers, drizzle some Thai Sriracha or sweet chile sauce for some added spice.
Toasted Garlic 
Heat 1/2 cup of vegetable oil to medium heat in a sauce pan. Then fry 1/2 cup of sliced garlic pieces in hot oil, stirring constantly to prevent the garlic from burning. When the garlic has turned crispy and golden brown, remove it from the pan and drain the pieces on a paper towel. Enjoy on top of arroz caldo or sinangag (Filipino fried garlic rice). 

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