Thursday, April 2, 2009

Congee/Arroz Caldo/Rice Porridge ala Beancounter

Yaya, among my kids, is the most adventurous when it comes to food. There’s no such thing as “adult food” in her vocabulary. The more “adult” it is the more she’ll be willing to try. But a few nights ago she was not feeling her best. She’s lost her usual voracious appetite. And during times like these she’ll only eat “rice soup”/Arroz Caldo (Spanish for Rice Broth).

Arroz Caldo, the Filipino version of Congee, is usually chicken based unlike its Chinese counterpart which has a very subtle almost neutral flavour. It would have to be the ultimate Asian comfort food to a point that in the Philippines it has been unfairly associated with the infirmed.

I usually make my Arroz Caldo as basic as possible. This is so Filipino in that we allow the diner to finish the dish by dressing up his/her arroz caldo to suit his/her taste. There are plenty of condiments to the Pinoy congee:

Tokwa’t baboy (deep fried tofu and pork)
Chicharon (deep fried pork rind)
Egg (hard boiled or soft boiled or even fresh)
Century egg
Spring onions
Cooked garlic in oil
Fish sauce
Soy sauce
White pepper/black pepper
Cooked tripe and other innards
And a lot more…

The possibilities are limitless (almost).

grains still whole, not yet ready in my book

Anyhoo, close to midnight my wife gently nudged me into preparing Arroz Caldo for Yaya.

consistency almost soupp like, now this is is ready

Arroz Caldo ala Beancounter

2 cups of jasmine rice
1 teaspoon salt
Slivers of ginger
2-3 cloves of garlic chopped
1 medium sized onion chopped
1 dozen chicken wingettes
Chicken stock (I purposely did not put the amount as I do not know exactly how much I’ve used. You need plenty to get a similar consistency to mine)

1. First wash the rice. Mix in the salt and about 1 tablespoon of oil after washing. Put in a strainer to get rid of excess water. From experience I think this helps in breaking down the rice quicker to reach my preferred consistency.
2. In a large stockpot with a thick base (this prevents the rice from sticking and burning quickly) heat up a bit of oil.
3. Sauté the ginger first then the garlic and then the onions. Pinoy dishes usually require you to wait for the garlic to turn golden brown as opposed to the European way.
4. Add the chicken and cook for about 3 minutes.
5. Add the rice and stir continuously for about 2 minutes. (If the base of your pot is not thick enough the rice will be sticking to the bottom like crazy. So invest in good pots and pans.)
6. Add the stock. You’ll notice that as the rice cooks it will absorb the stock. You’ll need to keep adding more stock to achieve the consistency that you like. The rice will soon have enough and will start breaking down. I like my congee almost soup like not overcooked rice. For me, there’s nothing worse than seeing the grains still whole.
7. It is then up to you to fully season your arroz caldo or leave it as bland as possible to and let the diner decide for himself using the condiments.
8. Serve steaming hot with your preferred condiments!


Manang said...

I used to cook my arroz caldo the same way except for onions when i was still in PI. I only modified now that I am in US where I use pre-made chicken broth because there are times I would cook chicken as main entrees then I would be left with the less popular parts (back, neck, etc.) so I would use this to prep my arroz soup base (boiling the bones for an hour or so) and would take the meat off the bones when tender enough. I then freeze the broth using plastic containers of cottage cheese. When I cook arroz caldo at some other time, then I sautee the ginger and garlic and the rice before adding thawed chicken broth.

The Beancounter said...

I cheat sometimes Manang and use knorr chicken cubes....que horror! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Tangled Noodle said...

I made a century egg congee a few posts back and now I want good old Pinoy-style arroz caldo! I love the giant chunks of ginger that went into the ones I had as a child. As far as I'm concerned, this is one of the best, most versatile meals ever!

The Beancounter said...

Yes, TN! I saw your post on Congee...and I thought what a coincidence it was ‘cause I’ve made congee ‘round the same time…