When I was growing up in the Philippines, I would occasionally feign illness to miss a school day. My mother would then send our househelp to buy and bring back every type of food I could think of and one of my favorite requests was arroz caldo from the downtown wet market. Before she would leave for work, my mother would leave detailed instructions to our yaya on what times I will be taking my paracetemol and on when to warm up the arroz caldo for me. My mother has always been good that way, always bent on making her children happy. Did she know I was faking sickness? Of course.
Arroz caldo is the Filipino’s interpretation of congee. In this rice soup, chicken pieces (preferably bone-in) and rice are boiled in a ginger-based broth until the grains have disintegrated into porridge-like consistency. Fried garlic bits, chopped green onions and calamansi juice are added for additional layers of flavor. The gruel is more common as a midday merienda but as it often includes meat, eggs or seafood, it is substantial enough to serve as a meal on its own. Although I usually start arroz caldo with uncooked rice, you can substitute leftover steamed rice to cut through cook time. Enjoy and keep warm, my friends.