Arroz Caldo | Filipino Chicken + Rice SoupJust like classic chicken soup, arroz caldo is nourishment, comfort and healing in a bowl. (My stovetop recipe is below but if you would like to make arroz Caldo in an Instant Pot–or any pressure cooker–please click here.) It was one week ago today when I brought my husband home from the hospital. His medical procedure required only an overnight stay, thankfully, and I’ve been very happy to see his swift and seamless recovery. Perhaps the most difficult part of the recovery period for my husband has been the prescribed down time. My husband doesn’t know how to take it easy, which was the number one thing his doctor had instructed him to do. Spend a week on the sofa? Forget it. Not going to happen…and it didn’t. He was told to move around a little so walking was allowed but where other patients might have interpreted this as walking to the kitchen and back…or walking up and down the driveway, my husband decided that a short walk meant two miles on his second day home. By the third day he was trimming the wisteria on the trellis, drilling drain holes in my pots, trying to fix the bird bath with a burned out motor…you get the idea. My husband has always operated on a higher gear than other people–productivity is king; idle time is wasted time–and this attitude has not only served him well in life it has also kept him in very good physical shape. But as his nurse, for me, it’s another story. Since his definition of slow and mine are so different, it’s not been easy managing my patient’s recovery time as it’s virtually impossible to even keep him indoors. So what’s a nurse to do but lure her patient back inside by enticing his taste buds with the promise of something soothing and comforting. I think back on the times that I’ve been sick or have felt the slightest bit under the weather. Under my mother’s care those times called for arroz caldo. Warm, nourishing, soft on the palate and gentle on the stomach, it was always the remedy for whatever ailed. Soothing to the soul and healing to the body arroz caldo (or lugaw as it’s also called) is the Filipino equivalent of classic chicken soup with its healing magic. But soup is used loosely here. While some versions can have a more soupy consistency, arroz caldo is more like rice porridge. Even a small amount of rice will absorb the liquid over time, the rice getting very soft and creamy, much like Chinese congee or jook. This is the texture I prefer instead of a brothy soup with distinguishable grains of rice. If you’re new to arroz caldo and try this recipe one thing you will discover is that it is mildly flavored. The garnishes–scallions, lemon and garlic–are important to adding complexity to the dish and while preparing it, I suggest that you use the amount of ginger and fish sauce I recommend. Both ingredients are important here and I don’t think there are suitable substitutes. And a final note on garnishes: sliced hard-boiled eggs and (trust me) crushed pork rinds are also very good. I didn’t grow up eating arroz caldo with egg and pork rinds but I highly recommend it. Arroz caldo is traditionally served as sick food or cold weather food but for its power to comfort, heal and restore it should really be called magic food and be enjoyed any time the craving hits.
Arroz Caldo | Filipino Chicken and Rice Soup
Just like classic chicken soup, arroz caldo is nourishment, comfort and healing in a bowl.
- 3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil (See Note)
- 1-2 inch knob ginger, peeled and grated with a Microplane grater
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1-2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 1/2 pounds bone-in chicken (whole cut-up or thighs/legs)
- 1 cup uncooked long grain white rice
- 8 cups chicken stock (See Note)
- 2-3 ribs celery, chopped (optional)(See Note)
- chopped scallions
- toasted chopped garlic (6-7 cloves)
- lemon wedges
- fish sauce
- ground pepper
- sliced hard boiled eggs (optional)
- crushed chicharon (pork rinds) (optional)
In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat then add the onions and celery (if using). Cook for about two minutes, being careful not to burn the onions. Add the ginger and one tablespoon fish sauce. (You can reserve the remaining fish sauce to taste as you cook.) Cook the ginger for one minute, stirring occasionally to keep it from burning.
Add the chicken, rice and broth and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low or medium low, cover and simmer until the rice is cooked. Be sure to stir the soup occasionally as the rice has a tendency to stick to the bottom of the pot. You don't want any of it to burn. I cook for at least 30 since I like my arroz caldo with rice that's lost its shape, taking on the texture of porridge. This recipe is super flexible. If you like it soupier, simply add more stock (see note). Just season with fish sauce or salt accordingly.
(Optional step) Traditionally, arroz caldo is served with bone-in pieces of chicken but I take the cooked pieces out of the pot, shred them and add the meat back in. This makes it much more convenient for serving.
Ladle the arroz caldo in bowls and garnish with scallions, toasted garlic, a squeeze of lemon juice, a few drops of fish sauce and ground pepper.
Prepare the Toasted Garlic
In a small pan, heat 1-2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Add the chopped (or sliced) garlic and cook for four to five minutes. The garlic should toast and brown gradually so adjust your heat if you see it browning too quickly. Drain and set aside in a bowl. (Tip: Don't toss the oil you cooked the garlic in--it tastes wonderful and would be a great topping for pasta or can be used for a dip or your next cooking project.)
- Cooking Oil: It's okay to use olive oil as long as it's mild. I use California Olive Ranch for all of my cooking and it works great here.
- Celery: this is an addition that is unique to me and completely unnecessary. It doesn't challenge the integrity of the original version but I like the addition of vegetables.
- Stock: the rice absorbs the liquid over time. The one cup rice to eight cups stock is a good starting ratio but I always have extra stock handy to thin the soup each time I reheat it. I also like Swanson's Reduced Sodium Chicken stock for this recipe.
- Shortcut: if you have leftover rice, feel free to use it in this recipe. It will cut the cooking time and taste the same. 1 - 1 1/2 cups cooked rice would work here.