The unofficial beginning of summer, the day after Memorial Day, has arrived in the US. It might sound like the wrong time of the year to be eating hot and hearty Arroz Caldo which is Filipino chicken and rice porridge. It just makes sense for this soup to be enjoyed when the weather is rainy, cozy and cold. However, the Philippines is a hot tropical country. Filipinos enjoy Arroz Caldo year-round when it is hot, hotter and hottest! Ha! Ha!
I have made Arroz Caldo twice this week. With the difficult, tragic and sad times that we currently live in, I have been craving things and food that are familiar and bring feelings of comfort. Maybe this is the reason why I have been baking banana breads and cooking a lot of soups lately.
Arroz Caldo (arroz is rice in Spanish and caldo means hot) has a Spanish name but it originates from the Chinese. Congee, which is a type of rice porridge, was already eaten in the Philippines and other Asian countries before the Spaniards colonized the Philippines. Arroz Caldo is a popular Filipino comfort food. You will find it on the menu at almost every restaurant in the Philippines serving traditional Philippine cuisine. When traveling in the Philippines, you will also very likely able to find Arroz Caldo served at a carinderia or small mom and pop food stall along a roadside, wet market or in front of someone’s house (where a housewife has set up shop to earn extra money).
Arroz Caldo is often eaten during breakfast or merienda (afternoon snack at around 3:00 pm after siesta or afternoon nap). Grandmas, moms and aunts lovingly make it when someone in the family is sick with fever or tummy ache. (Although women traditionally are the ones who cook in the Philippines, my uncle is the best cook in the family!)
Arroz Caldo is very easy and quick to make although it might look fussy because of the extra steps to prepare the toppings of fried garlic, boiled eggs, lemon (or kalamansi which is Philippine lemon if you have it), a side dish of fish sauce and green onions. Believe me, though, these toppings will make the porridge extra tasty. I would describe Arroz Caldo like risotto in soup form. I hope that you enjoy it if you decide to make it.
Chicken Arroz Caldo (Chicken Rice Porridge)
Prep: 15 minutes | Cook: 30 minutes | Servings 4-5
- Sticky Rice
- Chicken wings or thigh
- Canola Oil or neutral oil (Although not neutral oil, I always use Extra Virgin Olive Oil in my cooking)
- Chicken stock or broth (homemade or store-bought)
- Hard boiled eggs
- Green onion
- Fish sauce
- Lemon or lime (or Kalamansi which is Philippine lemon)
- Salt and pepper
- Turmeric (for coloring, optional)
NOTES BEFORE COOKING
- It is really important to use generous amounts of ginger and garlic. These will provide the overall layers of flavors for the soup. If done right, you will be rewarded with a marriage of flavors from the chicken, ginger and garlic, as well as from the toppings of fried garlic, green onions, eggs, lemon and fish sauce. If not cooked correctly or lacking ingredients, you will be very disappointed as this soup will be bland.
- You can only use sticky rice! Using glutinous sticky rice will provide the soup with risotto-like texture. Jasmine rice and other rice will not work. (Well, I am sure you will end up with a delicious rice and chicken soup but not Arroz Caldo!)
- If you decide to not use fish sauce, you may use salt but fish sauce provides that umami taste. I understand that others might not like the taste of fish sauce.
- Make the fried garlic chips! They are delicious, will provide another texture and add to the flavor profile of the soup. You will be glad that you did!
- Smash the ginger instead of slicing it. By smashing the ginger, you will have big pieces that you can just leave in the pot and not include in the soup when served individually in a bowl as others might not like to bite into ginger pieces. However, you will still enjoy the flavors of ginger in the broth.
- Safflower or saffron are traditionally used to add the yellow coloring to the porridge. This is optional as it is only for color and will not affect the flavor if not added. However, my version includes turmeric because it is what is commonly available and easily found in the US. Turmeric also has a lot of health benefits. It has a slightly bitter taste but I did not detect any bitterness in the soup.
- As with any soup, the flavors are stronger the next day and more delicious. Make sure to save a bowl for later!
PLEASE LET ME KNOW IF YOU MAKE ARROZ CALDO USING MY RECIPE!
- 2 tablespoons canola, olive oil or other neutral oil (divided into 1 tablespoon each)
- 1 onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed (for the soup)
- 1 head garlic, peeled and sliced thinly (for the topping)
- 1 (2 inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and crushed
- *1/2 teaspoon – 1/2 tablespoon turmeric (to add yellow color, optional)
- 6-8 chicken wings, split
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce (plus more to taste after cooking)
- 6 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup sweet rice
- 1 green onion, chopped
- 5 kalamansi (Philippine lemon) or lemon or lime, sliced
- Peel and slice 1 whole garlic head into thin slices.
- Heat 1 TBSP oil in frying pan over low heat.
- Fry garlic “chips” slowly until brown, being careful to not burn!
- Set aside.
- After soup is finished cooking, top each bowl of soup with garlic chips. You will be happy that you took the time to fry these garlic chips. You might want more!
- Heat 1 TBSP oil in a large pot over medium heat
- Saute onion, garlic, and ginger in the oil until fragrant and soft (about 5 minutes).
- Add the chicken wings and cook for about 2 minutes.
- Add sticky rice and fry for 1 minute.
- Stir the fish sauce into the pot and stir for another minute.
- Pour the chicken broth into the pot.
- Add chicken bouillon cube and stir until dissolved. (You may also separately dissolve the cube in a quarter cup of water then add to the soup to avoid lumps.)
- Cover and bring the mixture to a boil (about 10 minutes).
- Once it boils, lower heat and simmer for 15 – 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Taste and season with salt and pepper.
- Garnish with the chopped green onion, fried garlic and boiled eggs.
- Serve with lemon slices and additional fish sauce, if desired.
LOW SODIUM VERSION: When I make this soup, I never add commercial chicken broth or bouillon. I just use water. My mom cooks using only natural and fresh ingredients. She never uses commercial additives or MSG. She also does not add salt to our food. We add the salt according to our taste afterwards. I grew up eating this way. I find that arroz caldo is still very flavorful where the taste and flavors are derived from the chicken and spices, fish sauce added to the bowl when I am about to eat it, lemon and garlic chips. However, others might find this bland which is why I am posting a recipe using commercial broth and bouillon. Enjoy!