My parents are also getting old and sometimes prefer to eat comforting lugaw. It used to take me a long time standing over a stove and stirring to cook it, but not anymore! I found a surefire and easy way to make it that does not involve a lot of work.
This isn’t a gourmet or fancy type of lugaw – this is the simplest, “least-effort” recipe that I devised, that still delivers on the flavor. It’s a recipe that I can easily tweak – if I just want a white congee, then I won’t add any kasubha (safflower). If I want some pork instead of chicken, I can easily add some ground pork instead.
THE BASIC RECIPE
What I actually like to eat is a combination arroz caldo / congee. All I need is a slow cooker, a cup of rice, 10 cups of water, some ginger, and 2 chicken bouillon cubes, kasubha, and good quality fish sauce. That’s the basic recipe. It’s easy to make because all the ingredients are pantry staples.
I had some chicken necks I kept in the freezer just for this occasion, so I am adding those in. More on that below.
I used to make this with a lot of chicken, like 6-8 pcs of chicken thigh, but what happens is that everybody ends up eating the lugaw and nobody eats the chicken pieces! So that’s how I ended up not adding any more chicken meat pieces – nobody at home really eats them. They just want to eat the lugaw / congee / arroz caldo, and it’s the same for me. I just want the lugaw part and not the chicken. You can add chicken if you wish.
I like to use a 1:10 rice to water ratio. If you find that too thick or too thin, just adjust the water to your preference. 🙂
- Rinse 1 cup of rice very well. Drain. Put it in the slow cooker. I am using the standard-sized oval slow cooker and this makes just enough that the slow cooker is almost full.
- Add 10 cups of water to the rice.
- Add 2 chicken bouillon cubes. There’s no need to pre-melt the cubes! They will melt while cooking 🙂 Just remove the foil and plop those cubes into the rice water. No mess. No fuss!
- Add some sauteed ginger. This is probably the only part where you actually have to take out a frying pan and saute some sliced ginger (about a small thumb size). However, if you know you will be making this often, just fry a lot of ginger in one go and keep the rest in the refrigerator, ready to be used next time 🙂 This means you don’t have to saute ginger again next time! If you’re really too lazy to saute the ginger at all, you can skip doing it, but I just think it makes the dish taste better if the ginger is sauteed. While you’re at it, fry up some chopped garlic for garnish later.
- Add a generous pinch of kasubha and a few dashes of fish sauce. Stir everything, put on the slow cooker lid, and set the slow cooker on low for 8-12 hours (or high for 4-6 hours).
- Let it cook. Wait. Do something else. 🙂 Stir it on the 6th hour maybe. It doesn’t really matter. Just stir it once or twice during the cooking time.
- When the rice grains have fully “opened,” it’s done. Check for seasoning. I usually add some more fish sauce and stir everything to combine. That’s it! Easy! No need to stand over the stove for hours stirring and stirring.
- Serve with some fried garlic, chopped green onions, slices of hard-boiled egg, calamansi, or my favorite, all of the above combined with a lot of pork floss (also known as ma hu). Salmon floss or fish floss also works! Yum yum yum! We used to have a bottle of fried garlic in oil that was given to us by my aunt, the fried garlic never lost its crunch even after all that time. That made life easier because I didn’t have to fry any garlic at all! Unfortunately, we already used it all up and I forgot to go looking for it the last time I was at a supermarket. 😀
How to make your life easier:
- buy a bottle of fried garlic so you don’t need to fry garlic every time
- keep a stock of hard-boiled eggs in the refrigerator so you don’t have to boil eggs every time
Pork / fish / salmon floss is usually a topping for Taiwanese congee, but I also like to add it to my version of arroz caldo. You can also use century egg instead of hard-boiled egg 🙂
Here’s our stash of meat floss: We get most of them as pasalubong from relatives in Taiwan, but we have also bought some from S&R. The one on the left (Ground Fried Salmon Floss) I’m sure is available at S&R Shaw.
The meat floss are also very good as sandwich filling – just add mayo! If you love the Pork Floss bread at Bread Talk, this is the same thing as their topping, except the ones I currently have are made with fish instead of pork.
I wasn’t able to take a styled picture of the plated arroz caldo because everybody just dug in and ate… 😀
WHAT IF YOU DON’T WANT TO USE BOUILLON CUBES
What if you don’t want to use bouillon cubes? It’s a processed flavoring that has some msg, and it’s understandable if you don’t want to use them. I use them because it’s convenient, but if I have leftover chicken bones, I’ll use those instead.
For example, the whole Magnolia Chickens that I cooked previously, came with the chicken necks. I didn’t throw those chicken necks away. Sayang! I kept them in a plastic bag in the freezer just for times like this.
I sauteed the chicken necks together with the ginger strips. There’s really no need to thaw the chicken necks because they are still going to cook for 8 hours or more. The only reason I want to saute the ginger and the chicken is to get that arroz caldo aroma. You’ll know it when you smell it! Something as simple as sauteeing some ginger and chicken will already give off that arroz caldo aroma that will further add to the deliciousness of your arroz caldo!
If you have enough chicken parts/necks/backs/bones/wings, you can actually skip the bouillon. For this batch, because I only had two chicken necks, I used one chicken cube instead of two. The only problem I have with using actual chicken pieces is that after 8 hours of cooking, they tend to fall apart, and eating the arroz caldo can become a bit of a hassle because I have to keep fishing out small chicken bones.
You can also choose to just use home-made chicken stock instead of water if you want to take the time to make chicken stock. This will let you skip the bouillon and the use of chicken pieces that will disintegrate into the congee.
I hope you enjoyed this super easy Arroz Caldo recipe. You can make it as easy as possible by using chicken cubes, or you can make it as natural as possible by taking the time to make your own chicken stock.
With this simple recipe and my slow cooker, I can have hot arroz caldo ready in the morning without too much effort the night before!
Note on kasubha: Don’t buy too much. Just buy enough to last you a few weeks. I noticed that they become powdery and gross if kept for a long time. You can buy kasubha at the wet market, it’s really cheap, only P5 – P10 for a small packet.
I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please feel free to leave a comment below, I love hearing from you!