Lugaw Is the Ultimate Filipinx Comfort Food

updated Jun 29, 2021
How to Make Lugaw (Arroz Caldo)
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Credit: Photo: Neal Santos; Food Styling: Amelia Rampe

At its most basic, lugaw is a rice porridge made with glutinous or regular rice that’s simmered with water, salt, and ginger until the grains are really broken down. If you’re thinking it sounds similar to congee or jok or okayu, you’re not wrong! Rice porridge is a staple throughout Asia and takes many forms.

For me and many Filipinx, lugaw is the ultimate comfort food. It’s often served on rainy days and when you’re sick. And even though it’s mostly considered a breakfast food, I’m happy to eat lugaw morning, noon, and night!

Infusing Lugaw with Intense Chicken Flavor

Though some places in the Philippines make lugaw with beef stock, tripe (Goto), or bouillon cubes, I make mine with chicken stock and bone-in chicken because the bones give off richer, more intense chicken flavor. I start by rendering the fat off the chicken skin, then cook an aromatic base of onion, garlic, and ginger in the schmaltz. I add the rice and coat the grains in the aromatics and fat, then add the stock. It takes about 90 minutes to simmer the rice until it’s broken down enough and also to cook the chicken thighs and drumsticks until the meat is tender and falling off the bone.

Serving Lugaw for Dinner

In the Philippines, the toppings differ from place to place, but the standard is to serve it with calamansi (a small citrus similar to lime and orange) and patis (fish sauce). I turn this meal into dinner and give it some texture with the addition of scallion greens, patis caramel pork crumbles, and fried crispy garlic. You can simmer hearty greens if you’d like some extra vegetables. I also recommend serving it with any of the following toppings: a lime wedge, soft-boiled egg, slow-roasted cherry tomatoes, chili oil, or crushed pork rinds.

Credit: Photo: Neal Santos; Food Styling: Amelia Rampe

A Dish with Many Names

When the Spanish colonizers arrived in the Philippines, they called this dish arroz caldo, which translates to “rice broth.” I prefer to use the Tagalog word lugaw, not only because of my indigenous roots but also because when I traveled to the Philippines I noticed that restaurants don’t say arroz caldo but lugaw instead. Depending on what region of the Philippines you travel to, it may take on a different name — there are over 90 language dialects. In the Visayan region (where my family originally hails from), it’s called pospas.

You’ll find lugawan (a restaurant that sells lugaw) everywhere you go. Even the Ninoy Aquino Airport has a lugawan in the parking lot and it is good!

Credit: Photo: Neal Santos; Food Styling: Amelia Rampe
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Here's how to make lugaw.

How to Make Lugaw (Arroz Caldo)

Filipino comfort food.

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 1 hour 30 minutes

Serves 6 to 8

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the lugaw:

  • 1

    medium yellow onion

  • 6 cloves

    garlic

  • 1 (4-inch) piece

    fresh ginger

  • 3

    medium scallions

  • 1 1/2 pounds

    bone-in chicken thighs or drumsticks

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 tablespoon

    vegetable oil

  • 1 cup

    uncooked long-grain jasmine rice

  • 8 cups

    low-sodium chicken broth

  • Fish sauce and calamansi or lime juice or extract, for seasoning

  • Lime wedges, for serving (optional)

For the pork crumbles:

  • 2 tablespoons

    fish sauce

  • 2 tablespoons

    granulated sugar

  • 1 teaspoon

    calamansi juice or extract, or lime juice

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 tablespoon

    vegetable oil

  • 8 ounces

    ground pork

For the crispy garlic:

  • 10 cloves

    garlic

  • 1/2 cup

    vegetable oil

Instructions

Make the lugaw:

  1. Prepare the aromatics. Finely chop 1 medium yellow onion and 6 garlic cloves. Peel a 4-inch piece fresh ginger. Slice half the ginger into 1/4-inch thick slices. Very finely chop the remaining 2 inches ginger. Thinly slice 3 medium scallions, keeping the whites and greens separate. Refrigerate the chopped ginger and scallion greens.

  2. Prepare the chicken. Pat 1 1/2 pounds chicken dry with paper towels. Season with 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.

  3. Sear the chicken. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the chicken skin-side down and sear until the skin is deep golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

  4. Cook the aromatics. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onion, garlic, scallion whites, and sliced ginger. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent and tender, about 5 minutes.

  5. Add the rice. Add 1 cup jasmine rice and stir until combined and the rice is coated in fat.

  6. Add the chicken and broth. Return the chicken and any accumulated juices on the plate to the pot. Add 8 cups chicken broth and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.

  7. Simmer the lugaw for 90 minutes. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom to prevent rice from sticking, until the rice is very broken down and creamy and the chicken is fall-off-the-bone tender, about 1 1/2 hours. If the lugaw is too thick at this point (like risotto), add enough water to reach the desired consistency. Meanwhile, make the pork crumbles and fried garlic.

Make the pork crumbles:

  1. Combine the seasoning. Place 2 tablespoons fish sauce, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon calamansi or lime juice or extract, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper in a small bowl and stir until the sugar is mostly dissolved.

  2. Cook the ground pork. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add 8 ounces ground pork and cook, breaking up the pork into small pieces, until cooked through and browned, 4 to 5 minutes.

  3. Add the seasoning. Add the fish sauce mixture and cook until the liquid has evaporated and the pork deepens in color and begins to caramelize, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Make the crispy garlic:

  1. Prepare the garlic. Fit a fine-mesh strainer over a small heat-proof bowl or measuring cup. Very finely chop 10 garlic cloves.

  2. Cook the garlic. Place the garlic in a small saucepan, add 1/2 cup vegetable oil, and cook on medium heat until the garlic is deep golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes.

  3. Strain the garlic. Immediately pour the mixture through the strainer. Transfer the crispy garlic to a paper towel-lined plate. Reserve the garlic oil for another use.

Finish and serve the lugaw:

  1. Shred the chicken. When the lugaw is ready, remove and discard the ginger slices. Transfer the chicken to a plate or clean cutting board. When cool enough to handle, remove and shred the meat from the chicken. Discard the bones, skins, and cartilage. Return the chicken to the lugaw.

  2. Season and serve. Taste and season the lugaw with fish sauce and calamansi juice if desired. Serve the lugaw in bowls, garnished with the scallion greens, chopped ginger, pork crumbles, crispy garlic, and lime wedges if desired.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The crispy garlic can be made 1 day ahead. Store on a paper towel in an airtight container at room temperature.

Storage: Leftover lugaw can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 4 days.

Amelia Rampe’s Weeknight Filipinx Guide

This recipe is part of our weeknight Filipinx cooking guide, designed to bring the diverse cuisine of the Philippines into your kitchen. Head to the intro piece to read more from Amelia, and check out all of the recipes below.

1 / 5
How to Make Lugaw
For me and many Filipinx, lugaw is the ultimate comfort food. It’s often served on rainy days and when you’re sick. And even though it’s mostly considered a breakfast food, I’m happy to eat lugaw morning, noon, and night!
Go to Recipe
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Shrimp and Fish Sinigang (Tamarind Stew)
Sinigang is a tamarind-based stew that really showcases the Flipinx love of sour. I love the broth so much, I always used to go back for seconds of more broth on rice. It’s a comforting feeling to this day.
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Chicken Adobo with Coconut Milk (Adobo sa Gatâ)
In my life, I’ve enjoyed adobo many ways. One of my favorites is adobo infused with coconut milk. There are coconuts all over the Philippines, and in this recipe coconut milk adds a luxurious texture to the broth.
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Bistek
In the Philippines, we love the taste of sour, and bistek is the ultimate celebration of that flavor profile. It’s beef marinated in calamansi juice (or citrus juice, if you can’t find calamansi), soy sauce, chopped garlic, thick sliced onions, and bay leaves, and it really packs a punch.
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Credit: Kitchn