Everyone has a special comfort food dish that they crave when they are feeling under the weather. Some like grandma’s chicken noodle soup, others like beef stew. For my sister and myself we like Arroz Caldo, a traditional Filipino chicken and rice dish. Similar to risotto but flavored with ginger, garlic and lemon. My dad taught me how to make Arroz Caldo when I was moving out, along with a handfull of my favourite Filipino dishes like squash and beans, pancit bihon, lumpia and chicken tinola.
I’ve been trying to battle a cold for the last couple of weeks and yesterday my immune system finally threw in the white towel. Runny nose, headache, sneezing, sore throat…you know all the usual suspects. Luckily I had a rare early work day that allowed me to be home for dinner and I was craving Arroz Caldo all day (along with some Netflix and cuddles). It would have been even better if my dad made it but alas, a big girl living on her own has to fend for herself sometimes. My hubby is a huge fan of Filipino food, especially the comfort dishes so I knew he would be all in. I stopped at our local T&T Asian Supermarket on the way home from work and picked up some lemongrass, baby ginger and lemons. My dad doesn’t put lemongrass in his but I thought the fragrant flavor would be a welcomed addition. We already had the chicken, rice, and onion at home. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Literally.
Arroz Caldo (the non-traditional edition)
2 chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch chunks
2 cups basmati rice
3-4 cups water
1 large white onion, diced
2-3 stalks of lemon grass
3-4 inches baby ginger (or regular ginger), peeled and thickly sliced
1/2 head of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon fish sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lemon, cut into wedges
Heat the olive oil in a large pot on medium while you prepare the aromatics. With the back of a knife whack the lemon grass to break it a bit and release the flavors. There is no need to cut the lemongrass as you will be removing it from the dish later on. Add the onion, lemongrass, onion and garlic to the pot and stir until the onions have softened and the aroma fills your kitchen. Add the chicken and brown on all sides and cook through, about 10 minutes. Add the fish sauce, rice and water. Cover the pot and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer to cook the rice through, stirring occasionally. It should resemble a porridge or risotto like consistency. You can add more water if needed. Remove the lemongrass stalks. Season with salt and pepper throughout the cooking process. Squeeze as many lemon wedges as you like right before eating. I like a lot of lemon on my Arroz Caldo so I suggest leaving the lemon out for each person to garnish themselves.
I love the flavor of ginger but don’t enjoy eating it so much unless it’s on sushi so I leave it in large enough chunks that it can easily be picked out while eating. If you like eating ginger slice it thinly and leave it in the dish.
Besides the wonderful comfort factor of this dish it’s packed full of natural medical qualities from the ginger, garlic and lemon. It’s good for ya, even if you’re not sick. As you all probably have noticed cold season is here with the changing of the seasons so help prevent sickness in your family by whipping up this easy Filipino meal.