An Arroz Caldo of My Own…

The husband was feeling a little bit under the weather yesterday. And with good reason. The weather in New York has been unseasonably warm lately, with temperatures approaching the 60s on some days. With one chilly day here and there, it’s not only taking a tool on folks’ bodies, but on fashion and style choices.

Anyway, because I’m not as shady to my husband as I am in general day-to-day life, I decided to make him some Matzo Ball Soup, which quickly evolved into Salmon Sinigang, but then I wasn’t going to go to Chinatown to find all the ingredients to make it from scratch, so I settled on Arroz Caldo.

My decision making process is not a linear process. Things just make sense in my mind as ideas transition. In fact, nobody understands how I make the decisions I do- but what can I say?


Anyway, let’s talk a little more about the wonderful creation that is Arroz Caldo.

First, I didn’t know what Arroz Caldo was up until a few years ago. I always knew it by a different name, Lugaw- which to my astonishment is slightly different. Both of these celebrated Filipino dishes have strong ties to two of the countries that have influenced Filipino cuisine and culture- China and Spain.

First, let’s start with the basics. Arroz Caldo and Lugaw are two Filipino variants of the Chinese dish congee. Congee is a rice porridge that is often served with a variety of side dishes, and is popular in Asia under different names. When Chinese travelers and merchants arrived to Ma-Yi ( the name Chinese travelers and traders called the Philippines: hat tip to the Ma-Yi Theater Company for the info) they obviously brought this dish with them, and it evolved into what the Tagalog language calls lugaw.

Lugaw differs from congee because it’s typically thicker, the rice tends to retain its shape- and in my culinary memory has a strong garlic, onion and ginger flavor. This was the dish I was familiar with throughout my childhood.

Now, arroz caldo differs from congee and lugaw because this dish happens to 1. Have a Spanish name and 2. Is typically infused with ingredients that the Spanish missionaries, merchants, travelers and dignitaries (read: imperialistic colonizers) preferred to their tastes.

For this dish (which I admit, I wasn’t photographing as frequent because I didn’t think I was going to blog about it.) I decided to blend Lugaw (with it’s strong garlic and ginger base) and Arroz Caldo (with pepper and saffron) with seafood. The reason I chose seafood and not a chicken base (which is generally the case with lugaw and Arroz Caldo) is because husband is a pescetarian – meaning he abstains from meat and poultry* but eats and enjoys seafood.

Here’s what I needed for this delicious dish.

  • 1 1/2 cups of jasmine rice, washed and uncooked.
  • 32 oz  of seafood stock (I bought, but homemade is fine)
  • 3 tbsp. of patis (fish sauce)
  • 1 small yellow onion, minced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 1/4 cup of ginger
  • 2 tsp. black ground pepper
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3 tbsp. organic canola oil
  • 3 cups of water
  • 1 lb of shrimp, peeled and deveined.
  • Pinch of saffron
  • Thinly sliced scallions to garnish

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
First thing first, mince and dice your onions, garlic and ginger. In a medium-sized cooking pot, drop in 2 tbsp. of the canola oil and sauté onions until translucent, but not brown. Toss in ginger and sauté for an additional minute. Add 2 minced garlic cloves last, with 1 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. pepper and 3 tbsp. of patis. Stir for a minute and then add in washed, uncooked jasmine rice. Continue stirring until rice is coated with all the ingredients, and add in 1 cup of water, stirring constantly, when water is reduced down, add in 1 more cup of water and continue to stir and repeat process for last cup of water.

Now, if you’re familiar with risotto, you’ll notice the process looks very similar, and this was just a whim on my account because despite my many kitchen talents, I have no clue how to cook rice unless it’s risotto.

Add the fish stock and bring to boil. Add saffron, salt and pepper and stir, reduce heat to a simmer. Allow to sit for about 35-40 minutes stirring occasionally. If the liquid starts to become absorbed, add water in half cup increments. The point is to have a rice porridge, not fluffy rice.

I prepared the shrimp close to the 35 minute mark for the Arroz Caldo.

In a sauté pan, add 1 tbsp. of organic canola oil, Add shrimp to pan and sprinkle with the last minced garlic glove. Lightly sauté until freshly pink. Add entire contents of sauté pan to Arroz Caldo, stirring to evenly distribute shrimp and shrimp flavors. Allow to simmer for about 5 more minutes.

Serve with a garnish of chopped scallions and enjoy.

For the record, my husband did enjoy this, and he said it helped him feel a little better. Then he went for a second serving because “Babe, it’s so good.” And whenever my husband enjoys something I cook… well, I get all like:

Janet YWT


Anyway, here’s a pic in case you missed it:


steaming seafood flavored Arroz Caldo.

*some exceptions such as Filipino breakfast meats and Fried Chicken on his birthday apply.

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