Arroz Caldo (Philippine Chicken Congee)

When my calamansi plants yield their fruit, my kitchen starts to smell like the Philippines.  Most of the time, all of them fruit at the same time and that's when kitchen trouble starts.  With kilos of calamansi confronting me and requiring immediate attention and getting little help from my husband and kids who are picky about their Asian food, I prepare my son's favorite drink, calamansi juice with mint and cook all kinds of food that use calamansi.  One of the dishes I prepare is arroz caldo and drown it with calamansi and colatura di alici (Italian fish sauce from the Amalfi Coast equivalent to the Asian fish sauce).   I love it when both sourness and saltiness fight for dominance in the food.  I cook for 4 and I eat for 4.  And I don't eat arroz caldo again until the following year or, until I get another craving when the calamansi plants give me again another round of fruit.

For this year, I prepared my annual arroz caldo, went through my usual cooking for 4 and eating for 4 then I concluded my appetite for it until the following year again.  This time, I want to share with you the Philippines' version of chicken congee.  Almost all Asian countries have their own and this is the one that I grew up with and can't go without.  In the Philippines, this comes to everyone's mind unanimously when the temperature drops by a couple of degrees and the rainy season starts to keep everyone indoors.  And it's everyone's comfort food, including myself.

Inspite of my continued hope that my kids would open up more to the Philippine cuisine, this dish is something that I still need to work on to meet a compromise with them.  Maybe take away the fish sauce or ginger?  Or maybe I just need to give them time to grow up and widen their appreciation for more diverse tastes.  

And speaking of the Philippines, I have the honor to be included among the country's 100 inspirational nationals living in Europe compiled in the publication called Juan in EU.  I have yet to see the magazine but knowing that I am considered inspirational enough through my blogging gives me a sense of pride and honor to be handed that title.  Salamat PILIPINAS!   (I just got the copy.  Click on this link to take a peek!)

If you haven't tried this dish yet and you like Asian flavors, this is a must to add to your list during the colder months.  Buon appetito!

More Philippine Recipes:

Banana Spring Rolls (Turon)  
Taho: Soft Tofu, Vanilla Syrup & Tapioca in a Glass
Chicken Afritada  

Arroz Caldo (Philippine Chicken Congee)

Serves 4
  • 1 cup short grain uncooked rice (I use Carnaroli or Arborio.)
  • 4 chicken pieces with bones and with or without skin (however you prefer), cut to smaller pieces, about 2 inches
  • 1 (1-inch) piece of ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 2 spring onions, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • salt & pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil (or any oil)
  • a pinch of saffron powder 
  • 1 liter (4 cups) of hot chicken stock + 500 ml. (2 cups) for reserve in case you need more
  • saffron pistils for decorating (originally, dried safflower is used but saffron can be substituted)
  • 2 eggs
  • calamansi or lemon
  • additional fish sauce for seasoning
  1. Sautè the onion, garlic & ginger in a thick pot with extra virgin olive oil.  Toss for a couple of minutes.  
  2. Add the chicken.  Toss for about 10 minutes or until the color of the chicken has changed. 
  3. Add the rice.  Toast for about 2 minutes.
  4. Add 1 liter chicken stock, saffron powder and 2 tablespoons fish sauce.  Simmer for 30 minutes or until rice and chicken are cooked through.  Stir every once in a while so that it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot.  The amount of broth that you put depends on the consistency of the rice that you want.  
  5. Meanwhile, cook the eggs in another saucepot until hard boiled.  Take away from the shells.  Halve them lengthwise.  Set aside
  6. To serve, put the rice in a bowl with chicken, sprinkle with spring onions & saffron pistils.  Put half an egg on top.  Serve with calamansi (or lemon) & additional fish sauce (if desired).  
NOTE: Leftover arroz caldo can be kept in a sealed container in the fridge.  When reheating, simply put in a saucepan and add some water or chicken broth. 

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