How To Build A Bowl of Arroz Caldo | Turmeric Arroz Caldo

 

The Filipino Arroz Caldo (hot rice) is ginger-forward rice porridge with chicken. This creamy and hearty anytime-of-the-day bowl is served with a vibrant burst of freshness and umami condiments. This is such a reliable and flexible meal that it can transcend from warm breakfast bowl, a possible lunch on a cold day, sometimes an afterthought dinner that turns into a midnight snack.

Each region or country will have its own version of a comfort bowl of chicken soup. And ours is the Filipino Arroz Caldo.

The ginger garlic infusion and the long cooking of bone marrow makes a bowl of arroz caldo a restorative meal. In fact it is an SOP for when you’re sick, and a surefire way  to cure a hangover. 

The congee is the forefather of the arroz caldo. So, the Chinese immigrants have a heavy influence in this dish in the Philippines although it is Spanish in name. 

Turmeric Arroz Caldo topped with spring onions, crispy garlic, cilantro blooms and boiled eggs
Turmeric Arroz Caldo topped with spring onions, crispy garlic, cilantro blooms and boiled eggs

BUILDING YOUR ARROZ CALDO

LUGAW, THE BASE

Lugaw is the Arroz Caldo base. It starts with the sauté of garlic, onions, ginger. These flavors coat the rice.  Water and bone-in meat conjure the hearty soupy rice. A reliable short cut is a good broth or stock. The distinct yellow color is from poor man’s saffron, the safflower (Kasubha) or Annatto (Achuete oil). Or, saffron as a luxurious option.

A lugawan (place where lugaw is sold)  would spend hours infusing the flavor of the meat bones into the rice soup. The heart of a good Arroz Caldo is the base.  

THE PROTEIN

Now that the base is in place, you can stop here and head on straight  for the toppings and sides. But the lugaw is the prefect blank canvas for different protein variations: chicken (Arroz Caldo), pork (Lugaw na Baboy), beef (Lugaw na Baka). Goto is the term used when chitterlings and tripe are used.  It is always a joy with each spoonful of rice with meat bits and pieces.  

THE TOPPINGS

Crispy garlic, spring onions or scallions, copious amounts of pepper, fish sauce and a squeeze of calamansi (or lemon or lime) are the usual suspects. I like to add cilantro for the extra vibrancy. 

THE SIDES

The lugawan is perfect for the cash-strapped and starving. An order of plain lugaw and a side of boiled eggs is the lifesaver  if you can spare Php15 (US¢30 cents), order lugaw with boiled eggs and I would be happy. I would add the expected tokwa’t baboy, fried tofu and crispy pork, usually face or ear parts. And lumpiang togue (Fried Vegetable Lumpia), usually with bean spouts, sweet potato, chayote and carrots). Both are dipped in spiced vinegar with soy sauce. 

AND WE EAT 

The ever-growing foodie culture encouraged more Filipinos to be more creative with the humble lugaw. Ingredient editions but retaining the essentials of the dish  include healthy-ish black rice lugaw, salted duck egg or quail eggs,  bone marrow, vegan with mushrooms. For the more adventurous,  utak (brain [of pig]), dila (tongue [of pig]), paa ng manok (Chicken feet) and litid ([beef] ligaments) are probably worth a try. 

Turmeric Arroz Caldo topped with spring onions, crispy garlic, cilantro blooms and boiled eggs and lcitrus
Turmeric Arroz Caldo topped with spring onions, crispy garlic, cilantro blooms and boiled eggs

On a side note

The term tubong lugaw is an entrepreneur parlance derived from the lugawan business. Tubo (profit) + Lugaw (porridge) means small investment, big returns. Lugaw vendors swear to the quick profitability. One could triple an initial capital of a thousand pesos (USD20). A flavored rice soup which sells easily for about Php15.00 (US¢30 US cents) a bowl with every addition is a price add-on. Easy to make, cheap to sell, easy to earn. Tubong lugaw. 

 MY VERSION

Here are some of my tweaks to traditional arroz caldo. 

  1. The powdered turmeric (Fresh turmeric is even better) addition in this version intensifies the ginger flavor and aids in the golden yellow hue of the dish, relieves you of making the annatto oil. I have included the annatto oil step in the recipe. If you want to use saffron, use about 7-8 strands. 
  2. Ramen Egg (Ajitsuke Tamago) instead of regular soft boiled eggs to jazz up the arroz caldo bowl.
  3. A blend of cilantro and spring onions is worth a try, if you’re like me who is a cilantro fan.
  4. I included stovetop and instant pot procedures for your convenience. 

Friendly Reminders: Recipes are meant to be guides. My recipes will take you almost there, if not THERE. Enjoy cooking using your senses – taste, smell, look and feel. The more you cook, the more you develop your common cooking sense.

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MAY FAITH, LOVE AND FOOD FILL YOUR LIFE.

HAPPY COOKING!

MIA

Arroz Caldo with Eggs, Crispy Garlic, Green Onions and ground pepper

Turmeric Arroz Caldo (FIlipino Congee)

Mia Estolano-Levert
The Filipino Arroz Caldo (hot rice) is ginger-forward rice porridge with chicken. This creamy and hearty anytime-of-the-day bowl is served with a vibrant burst of freshness and umami condiments that makes it personalized. This is such a reliable and flexible meal that it can transcend from warm breakfast bowl, a possible lunch on a cold day, sometimes an afterthought dinner that turns into a midnight snack. Each region or country will have its own version of a comfort bowl of chicken soup. And ours is the Filipino Arroz Caldo.
Prep Time 2 hrs 15 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Course Breakfast, Main Course, Snack, Soup
Cuisine Filipino
Servings 4

Equipment

  • Instant Pot
  • Dutch oven or thick bottomed pot

Ingredients
  

  • 5 cloves garlic sliced thinly
  • 3 tbsp cooking oil or annatto oil
  • 4 pcs chicken thigh parts or any bone in chicken
  • 2 tbsps fish sauce Red Boat
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 2 inches fresh ginger, minced or 1 tbsp ginger powder
  • 1 cup jasmine rice or sticky (glutinous) rice
  • 2 tsps turmeric powder optional, or 3 tbsps annatto oil, or 6-8 threads saffron
  • 3.5 cups low sodium chicken broth or water
  • 1/4 cup water

For Serving

  • calamansi, lime or lemon wedges
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onions or scallions
  • pepper
  • fish sauce
  • 2 boiled eggs or ajitsuke tamago cut into half

Annatto Oil

  • 1 tbsp annatto seeds
  • 1/2 cup cooking oil

Instructions
 

  • Optional: Marinade chicken in 1 tbsp fish sauce for a minimum of 2-3 hours. This helps layer the flavor especially if you're using Instant Pot.

How To Make Annatto Oil (Optional)

  • Put half a cup of oil over low heat with 1 tbsp annatto seeds. Make sure it doesn't smoke. Low and slow. Color should start showing at around 2 minutes. Turn off the heat when it becomes more vibrant red orange, about 4-5 minutes. Let it cool. Strain the seeds. Oil should be okay to use for 3 months. If doubling the recipe, cook time is longer.

Instant Pot Method:

  • Set IP to saute. Pour annatto oil. Crisp garlic in anatto oil until light brown. Careful not to burn it. It cooks quick so remove immediately from pan before it turns brown. It will continue cooking. Set aside for serving later.
  • Sear the chicken skin side down first for 4 minutes or until it turns brown. Flip and brown the other side for another 4 minutes. Set aside.
  • Saute onion and ginger until fragrant. Add turmeric podwer saffron (if not using annatto oil).
  • Add rice and stir until oil coats all the grains. Let it cook for a couple minutes more until it turns a bit brown.
  • Pour the broth and stir. Add the chicken and its juices back in. Add remaining fish sauce.
  • Press cancel button and press poultry setting (or high pressure for 16 minutes). Cover IP and make sure vent is sealed.

Stovetop Method

  • Pour annatto oil. Crisp garlic in anatto oil until light brown. Careful not to burn it. It cooks quick so remove immediately from pan before it turns brown. It will continue cooking.
  • Sear the chicken skin side down first for 4 minutes or until it turns brown. Flip and brown the other side for another 4 minutes. Set aside.
  • Saute onion and ginger until fragrant. Add turmeric or saffron (if not using annatto oil).
  • Add rice and stir until oil coats all the grains. Let it cook for a couple minutes more until it turns a bit brown.
  • Pour the broth and stir. Add the chicken and its juices back in. Add remaining fish sauce
  • Partially cover and simmer until rice and chicken cooks, about 40 minutes. Add water if it starts to dry up.
  • To adjust consistency, add water to reduce thickness.

For Serving (IMPORTANT)

  • Assemble the following: sliced citrus of your choice, fish sauce, green onions, crispy garlic and ground black pepper.
  • Put chicken and rice into a bowl, add the egg. Add all the condiments, and adjust to your liking.

Notes

  1. If you like the ginger flavor but dont like biting into it, you can grate. OR you can smash the entire ginger and just pull it out before cooking.
  2. Do not worry about undersalting it. The condiments will help build your personal flavor. 
  3. The powdered turmeric (Fresh turmeric is even better) addition in this version intensifies the ginger flavor and aids in the golden yellow hue of the dish, relieves you of making the annatto oil. I have included the annatto oil step in the recipe. If you want to use saffron, use about 7-8 strands. 
  4. Ramen Egg (Ajitsuke Tamago) instead of regular soft boiled eggs to jazz up the arroz caldo bowl.
  5. A blend of cilantro and spring onions is worth a try, if you're like me who is a cilantro fan.
  6. I included stovetop and instant pot procedures for your convenience.  
  7. For vegan option, crisp up soy-marinated tofu and mushrooms in replacement of chicken and eggs. Use vegetable broth or mushroom seasoning and water for more flavor.

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