Lugaw is for the Children

Arroz_caldo_lugaw

Generally speaking, babies (of the human variety) can begin to eat semi-solid food between 4 and 6 months of age. So when my kid hit the four-month mark, and our pediatrician gave us the green light to shove spoonfuls of rice cereal into his mouth (the baby’s mouth, not the pediatrician’s), I was rather excited. As soon as my kid got used to the idea of rice cereal in his maw, I would begin gifting his palate with little tastes, here and there, of Filipino food.

Here in the U.S., the introductory food of choice for toothless lil’ babies seems to be rice cereal because it is easy to digest and relatively bland in flavor. In the Philippines though, a rice porridge called “Lugaw” is often the first semi-solid food given to babies.

Like rice cereal, Lugaw (looh-gow) makes for a wonderful first food because it too is relatively easy for babies to digest. But unlike rice cereal, Lugaw is anything but bland as this Filipino porridge contains the essence and soul of a chicken (mwahahaha!).

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The chicken in this porridge died a hero.

The terms “Lugaw” and “Arroz Caldo” are sometimes used interchangeably to refer to the same Filipino comfort food–a porridge of rice and chicken cooked in chicken broth. However, there are some Filipinos (i.e. my mother) who use the term “Lugaw” to refer to a rice-only porridge, and “Arroz Caldo” to refer to a porridge that contains both rice and chicken. And I’m sure there are others who use the terms in completely different ways. For the sake of this post, I’ll take my mom’s lead (ugh) and use “Lugaw” to refer to rice porridge, and “Arroz Caldo” for the whole shooting match of chicken and rice porridge.

Despite the various ways to call a porridge a porridge, Lugaw and Arroz Caldo can be achieved via the same recipe, albeit with a few modifications. And although I’ve written about Arroz Caldo before, I’ll give another refresher as to how it’s made here.

For Lugaw/Arroz Caldo, I usually start with a whole chicken that I break down into serving pieces, but you can certainly use a couple pounds of just thighs, or thighs and legs, or whatever chicken part you fancy. I then heat some oil in a big pot and then add all of the chicken pieces.

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Chicken, unbrowned

This next step is gonna sound strange, but it’s a trick I recently learned from my mom and now utilize for all Filipino dishes containing chicken: I don’t brown the chicken, I actually throw a touch of water into the pot (maybe a scant quarter cup), clamp on the lid, and then let the chicken cook and steam in its own juices over high heat. After a few minutes, there will be a considerable amount of liquid and fat that has leached out of the chicken and bones and into the pot. This is the essence and soul of the chicken I mentioned earlier. This is magic chicken liquid. It is glorious.

I know you may be thinking that this “magic chicken liquid” I speak of is probably just chicken fat, and can be had by also browning the chicken. But I’ve tried both methods, and for some reason or another, browning the chicken does not result in the same rich flavor in the final dish. Trust me.

Anyhizzle, after magic chicken liquid is obtained, I then add some ginger, soy, and patis (fish sauce) to the pot, toss everything around, and cook for a few minutes more. I then add enough water to the pot to cover the chicken, and then I simmer everything with the lid on for 2 hours.

Once the chicken has been simmered to smithereens, remove it from the broth with a slotted spoon or tongs, and set the chicken aside to cool. Now you can add some rice (I use a mixture of malagkit and regular medium grain white rice) to the liquid in the pot and cook until the desired consistency of porridge is achieved (i.e. soupy, stick-to-yo-ribs, or somewhere in between).

At this point, you now have Lugaw: a rich porridge of rice cooked in chicken broth. Lugaw isn’t eaten exclusively as baby food; most Filipinos, big and small, enjoy the porridge. It’s good for baby and tasty enough for grown-ups! Could Lugaw be made with store-bought chicken stock? Of course. And you could also make it with water as well. But those are less tasty options, so why bother?

Now, remember those chicken pieces you’ve set aside? If you want to take your porridge relationship to the next level, you can remove the chicken meat from the bones, and then add this chicken meat back to the pot. Serve the chicken and rice porridge in bowls with some side accoutrement (ooh lar lar) such as chopped scallions, fried garlic, hard-boiled eggs, more fish sauce, kalamansi, etc. and voila, Arroz Caldo.

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Baby spoon, big appetite

Because our baby is barely eating a tablespoon of food at one sitting, and because he isn’t yet used to anything other than bland rice cereal, I made an entire pot of Arroz Caldo for me and the wife, and just scooped out a single baby spoonful of rice sans chicken for the baby.

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Once it hits your lips, it’s so good!

After a good 3-Mississippi count of the Lugaw being chipmunked in my confused baby’s cheeks, he actually swallowed the rice rather than spewing it all over himself. Good times. As he gets more used to eating different things and experiencing different flavors, he may graduate to Arroz Caldo soon. But for now, he does love him some Lugaw.

Like the late and great ODB might’ve said, “Lugaw is for the children!”

Lugaw/Arroz Caldo

Serves 8-10

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 2-3lb. chicken, cut into serving pieces
1 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and julienned
1 tablespoon soy sauce
3 tablespoons fish sauce
6 cups water, plus more to cover
1 cup uncooked white rice, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup uncooked glutinous rice (malagkit, found in Asian markets) rinsed and drained

Heat the oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the chicken pieces to the pot, along with a splash of water, and then cover the pot. Allow the chicken to cook (covered) over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, for 5-10 minutes, until about a cup of liquid has accumulated in the bottom of the pot.

Add the ginger, soy sauce, and fish sauce to the pot and stir. Continue cooking for 2 more minutes until the ginger becomes fragrant.

Add enough water to the pot to completely submerge all of the chicken pieces. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 2 hours. After simmering for 2 hours, taste the liquid for seasoning. Add more fish sauce as needed.

Using tongs or a slotted spoon, remove the chicken pieces from the pot and set aside to cool in a large bowl. Add all of the rice to the liquid in the pot and cook over medium heat until the rice is soft and the porridge reaches the desired consistency–this can take 20-40 minutes depending on how thick you want the porridge. If the porridge becomes too thick, you can add water to thin out.

For Lugaw, serve the porridge in bowls as is.

For Arroz Caldo, remove the chicken meat from the bones and add the meat back to the porridge. Arroz Caldo can be topped with sliced hard boiled eggs, fried garlic, sliced scallions, additional fish sauce, ground black pepper, fresh kalamansi, anything the heart desires really.

  • Tangled Noodle January 11, 2010, 8:15 pm

    I’m making me some of that magic chicken liquid! When I caught a cold halfway through our Phil trip, I had a bowl of arroz caldo every morning at the buffet (among many, many other foods). Cure-all!
    I asked my mom the very question you answered: what’s the diff between lugaw, AC and goto? I forgot what she said about goto (tripe?) but the other two confirm your mom’s definitions. Looks like we have to defer to those dear ladies!
    Your little man is so cute! He looks like he’s messaging with his eyes: “What is he trying to make me eat?!” It’s delicious, Little Lumpia – trust your dad. Thanks for the recipe – I’m needing some more of this magic!

    Reply
  • kat viray January 11, 2010, 10:30 pm

    I love lugaw… it always made my tummy happy when I’m sick.
    BTW, Baby Lumpia is sooo adorable! I don’t know what you or your wife look like but I’m guessing he gets the cuteness from his mama? 😉 Are his eyes blue or is my screen playing tricks on me?

    Reply
  • Jikuu January 11, 2010, 10:45 pm

    That’s so cute! Thanks for the baby picture. I hope you guys are starting to get more sleep now! And, of course, the recipe’s good too. Can’t forget the focus of the website, after all!

    Reply
  • Heather January 12, 2010, 6:49 am

    Baby Lumpia is so adorable! Thanks for the great recipe. I am making it this weekend. I have been sick and I am hoping that the magic in this porridge rids of this vile illness once and for all!

    Reply
  • Caleb January 12, 2010, 10:11 am

    Oh man, when I saw the first photo I thought to myself, “That looks like it has the texture of baby food.” Then after the second paragraph I thought, “Oh, she nailed it!” 😛
    I’ll have to give this a try sometime. :)

    Reply
  • Dea January 12, 2010, 12:05 pm

    Baby Lumpia is sooooooo cute! Those blue eyes are amazing! Lugaw seems like it would be a much more proper baby food than that “chicken and rice” mush from Gerbers. I bet he’ll love the arroz caldo when he gets to it.

    Reply
  • jean January 12, 2010, 1:06 pm

    Baby L is so handsome. I swear he’s doppelganger for my son who’s Belgipino.(Hubby is of Belgian descent by way of Upstate New York). Caucasians gettting down with the brown, often results in excessive cuteness! 😉

    Reply
  • Eat. Travel. Eat! January 12, 2010, 9:35 pm

    Love “magic chicken liquid”. So tasty and flavorful! I always try to get plenty of it when I steam chicken. So good with steamed rice, but you make its use even better :).

    Reply
  • punky January 13, 2010, 4:09 am

    pwede po ba xlinks tayo? na.add na kita sa blogroll ko.. foodblog din akin.. maraming salamat!

    Reply
  • caninecologne January 13, 2010, 9:02 pm

    hi marvin
    i’ve never had lugaw before, but arroz caldo, yes.
    thanks for the tip about steaming the chicken rather than browning it. that seems so much easier and less labor intensive.
    baby lumpia is so cute!

    Reply
  • joey January 14, 2010, 1:33 am

    Thanks for the tip on the magic chicken liquid! I love lugaw/arroz caldo — better than any medicine in making me feel better when sick :)
    Baby Lumpia is adorable…I’m sure he is so glad you let him have lugaw (yummier than bland rice cereal I’m sure!)!

    Reply
  • wasabi prime January 14, 2010, 8:35 am

    Awwwww… so adorable!! Baby’s first bite of delicious food is as important as the first steps and saying, Dad, i need to borrow the car. I like the idea of introducing complex and very real dishes to little ones, instead of just giving them a bowl of bland mushy stuff. They’re absorbing so much information; why not get their palates ahead in the game?

    Reply
  • bagito January 14, 2010, 9:51 pm

    BL is so cute! Love lugaw, too. That was our magic medicine when we were kids. And yummy, too! I think I’ll make some arroz caldo this weekend, esp since it’s supposed to rain. Perfect!

    Reply
  • Cynthia January 15, 2010, 11:50 am

    I was going to say something about the soup and thanks for the cultural info but I scrolled down as I read and fell completely in love with the guy that seemed to have eyes only for me…

    Reply
  • Lori Lynn @ Taste With The Eyes January 16, 2010, 2:16 pm

    Oh he is so cute!
    My nephew, Stone, 7, loves onions, has ever since he was a baby. I kept thinking he’d have really like that as a baby too, with scallions, maybe more finely chopped.
    LL

    Reply
  • Manggy January 16, 2010, 10:04 pm

    He likes lugaw! Such a Pinoy :) And a super-cute (and blue-eyed) one at that! Yes, my distinction for lugaw vs. arroz caldo is indeed the presence of chicken parts. (In fact, lugaw may be flavored by many other things, not necessarily ginger and chicken, though I’m hard-pressed to think of other/better ones).

    Reply
  • Tuty January 17, 2010, 12:19 pm

    Marvin,
    Your baby is such a sweetheart…. Oh, he really melts my heart.

    Reply
  • Julie January 17, 2010, 1:35 pm

    Lookit the blue-eyed baby!!! So cute. Although I really don’t want kids, this post made my biological clock hungry. *sigh*
    The Lugaw looks tasty, btw!

    Reply
  • Impromptu Diva January 17, 2010, 5:38 pm

    what a doting dad you are! baby l is lucky as he is introduced to a wide variety of flavors…
    yes my babies grew up eating lugaw too!

    Reply
  • Katrina January 19, 2010, 12:02 am

    What a nice surprise to see a picture of your baby! He’s adorable, Marvin!!!
    And yes, I think it’s best to start kids young on different flavors. Who wants to feed a picky child?

    Reply
  • Burnt Lumpia January 21, 2010, 2:16 pm

    Thanks Tangled Noodle! Yes, arroz caldo is like filipino chicken soup, it’s the best cure for colds.
    Thanks very much Kat. Yes, my baby’s eyes are blue, but they may still change color. And his cuteness is definitely from his mother;)
    Don’t worry Jikuu, I’ll won’t change the focus of this blog, at least not intentionally;)
    Hi Heather. I hope you’re feeling well.
    Thanks for visiting my blog, Caleb.
    Thanks Dea. We hope he keeps his eye color, but we’ve been told that babies tend to change their eye color within the first year.
    Hi Jean! Yes, cuteness definitely happens when getting down with the brown 😛
    Thanks ETE! Good point about adding the liquid to rice, sounds tasty!
    Thanks punky. I’ll check your blog out for sure.
    Hey there caninecologne! I know not browning goes against all western culinary thought, but steaming the chicken first definitely adds more flavor imo.
    Thanks very much joey! I hope you and C and lil C are doing well. Soon, lil C will be on lugaw soon too!
    I totally agree with you Prime. Hopefully introducing different foods will help him in the long run.
    Thanks bagito! And there’s nothing better on a rainy day than arroz caldo!
    Thanks Cynthia! Don’t let him break your heart;)
    Stone sounds likes he’s well on his way to being a good eater! Thanks LL!
    Hey Manggy! I’ve never had lugaw any other way, but I’m sure it’s pretty tasty in other forms.
    Thanks so much Tuty!
    You’re too young to have a biological clock, Julie! 😛
    Thanks impromptu! I hope I’m not too doting;)
    Hi there, Katrina! Yes, hopefully with the different flavors he doesn’t become picky, but I hope it doesn’t backfire either.

    Reply
  • Jiae January 21, 2010, 6:24 pm

    Oh, my gosh! BL is so cute!
    His eyes are so blue!
    Now about the lugaw, I WANT.

    Reply
  • Lisa K January 21, 2010, 7:59 pm

    Hey there, Mr. Pogi Baby! Howzat lugaw treatin’ you? Hmm?
    …o, sorry. Cute babies turn my brain into, er, lugaw.
    I’d like to try feeding this to our 8.5-month-old polipino daughter (daddy’s mostly Polish). We’re thisclose to starting proteins, and it would be a great introduction to meat. Thank you for the idea.

    Reply
  • sara January 23, 2010, 3:23 pm

    i miss lugaw. my lola used to make this when i was sick with absolutely anything as a child, and used to stand over me to make sure i devoured the whole thing, painful shards of chicken bone and all. sometimes i even got a few fibrous, pungent ginger chunks as well, but (as with most lola’s i imagine) her love was draconian in nature and her methods, though painful, ultimately did more good than harm :). she was all gangster in her kitchen skills/grandbaby rearing.
    speaking of babies, yours is a cutie! and he’s probably gonna give you guys trouble with the ladies when he gets older!
    – sara!

    Reply
  • Rob January 27, 2010, 7:47 am

    great

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  • WowJustWow February 4, 2010, 9:16 pm

    Your Son is very handsome!
    Thank you for your Lugaw Recipe, I made it for the first time. My husband thanks you!

    Reply
  • Andrew@Promotional Duffel Bags February 11, 2010, 12:43 pm

    AHHH…the classic. I grew up with the ever exotic GOTO. All are great. Just depends on what kind of protein you’re looking for…if you’re up to grubbing on the less popular parts that is.

    Reply
  • joanie July 18, 2010, 7:48 pm

    my mom inexplicably also began using saffron in her arroz caldo a couple of years ago!… was there a Filipino Mom Memo that we didn’t know about?!…

    Reply
  • Sarahlynn Pablo January 26, 2017, 11:57 am

    Hello Marvin! I broke down the whole chicken for the first time of the many times I have made this recipe. Yay me, it wasn’t that hard! Should I include the backbone (whole or cut?) or save for another time? LOVE THIS RECIPE!

    Reply
    • Burnt Lumpia January 27, 2017, 11:14 am

      Hey Sarahlynn, I usually save the backbone for making stock at a later time, though it wouldn’t hurt to use in this recipe to add more flavor, then just fish it out before serving:)

      Reply

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