Arroz caldo, the hearty rice porridge cooked with chicken and ginger, is chicken soup for the Pinoy soul. The grains, boiled and broken down in broth until creamy, take on a risotto-like texture. Each bite warms the body, making it the perfect merienda on a rainy day, or a nourishing meal when you're sick.
Is arroz caldo the same as lugaw?
Arroz caldo goes by many names, depending on where you're from. While arroz caldo is a type of lugaw, lugaw is not always arroz caldo!
The Chinese have congee, Koreans have juk, we have lugaw. The word means "porridge" or "gruel" in Filipino, and covers any dish made with boiled and thickened rice or grains. Examples of lugaw include arroz caldo, champorado, and lelot balatong (lelot being the Kapampangan term for lugaw).
Arroz caldo is Spanish in name, but Chinese in origin. It is said to be our adaptation of congee, which was introduced to the Philippines by Chinese immigrants. Our Spanish conquerors didn't care to learn the Chinese language, and called the dish arroz caldo—"rice broth". Eventually, the term referred to the ginger-flavored Pinoy rice porridge with chicken.
How to make the best chicken arroz caldo
Take your basic lugaw and add chicken, ginger and kasubha: that's basically arroz caldo. To get the best texture and flavor out of your bowl, this recipe adds a few more steps—from toasting the rice to cooking down your chicken skin.
Use a mix of glutinous and jasmine rice
For the best texture, use equal parts glutinous rice and jasmine rice. Glutinous rice gives arroz caldo its thick, starchy texture while jasmine rice balances it out with fluffy, fragrant grains.
Toast the rice for color and flavor
Toasting the uncooked rice in oil enhances its color and nutty flavor. To make it even more flavorful, mash itlog na maalat (salted egg) with the grains to give it a savory, salty umami.
To achieve that signature arroz caldo-yellow, add a few strands of kasubha while cooking the rice.
Grate your aromatics
Grating your garlic and ginger does two things: it strengthens their flavor, and makes them easier to incorporate into the arroz caldo—no stray chunks to bite into. But if you like the bite of thinly sliced ginger, you can add some into your arroz caldo right before serving.
Add chicken skin for texture
Don't discard your chicken skin! Cook it with your rice to break down the collagen and fatten the soup. This gives your arroz caldo a glossy, silky texture and more chicken flavor.
Cook the chicken last
Cooking the chicken last ensures that your meat stays soft and juicy, not dry and stringy. Add it to your arroz caldo at the last 10 minutes of cooking.
- 400-500g boneless chicken leg quarter, skin on
- 2–3 tbsp grated ginger
- 2 tsp grated garlic
- 1 tsp fish sauce
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- pinch of ground black pepper
- ⅓ cup glutinous rice
- ⅓ cup jasmine rice
- 1 salted egg
- 2 tbsp neutral oil
- 2–3 tbsp grated ginger
- 2 ½ tbsp grated garlic
- 2 tbsp minced hibe (dried shrimp)
- ⅓ cup diced white onion
- 4 ½ cups water, more if needed
- salt and pepper
- ½–1 tbsp dried kasubha (safflower)
- thinly sliced ginger, optional
- fried garlic bits
- calamansi, halved
- chili-garlic oil
- chopped spring onions
- hard-boiled egg, peeled and halved
Prepare chicken: Separate the chicken and its skin with a sharp knife. Place chicken skin in a bowl and set aside. Slice chicken meat into small pieces and transfer to a separate bowl. Add ginger, garlic, fish sauce, soy sauce, and black pepper to the chicken. Mix until combined and let marinate for 15 minutes.
Prepare rice: While the chicken marinates, combine glutinous and jasmine rice in a bowl. Peel, halve, and add the salted egg. Using clean hands, massage egg into the rice grains until colored and evenly distributed. Set aside and let marinate for 15 minutes.
Toast rice and aromatics: Heat 2 tbsp oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Add salted egg-coated rice and toast, stirring frequently, until aromatic. Add ginger, garlic, hibe, and onion. Cook until aromatics have softened, 1–2 minutes.
Cook rice: Add water to the rice and season with salt and pepper. Stir in kasubha, then add chicken skins. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook rice, uncovered, until grains have softened, 10–15 minutes. If the rice looks dry, add more water.
Cook chicken: When the arroz caldo is thick, add marinated chicken. Cover pot and cook for 10 minutes.
Serve: Stir in thinly sliced ginger, if using, to the arroz caldo. Divide between bowls and top with garlic bits, calamansi, spring onions, and egg. Drizzle chili garlic oil and serve hot.