I was sick last weekend so although I didn’t feel like eating, I ventured out to find arroz caldo. Literally, arroz means rice and caldo means soup. Both words are Spanish, and the more orderly construction would be caldo de arroz. Google will tell you though that the dish is Filipino chicken congee, which essentially makes it sophisticated rice porridge – and also so much more. Recipes will differ among households. Depending on my mother’s mood, for example, she adds varying volumes of soy sauce each time.
Arroz caldo, in my house, is a staple dish. This has to do with my mother being a busy woman, and arroz caldo being an easy dish to prepare. My father and I like soup – we’d survive even if we had to live on just noodles for a year – so aside from tinola, arroz caldo is the only other thing my mother never fails to prepare for us. Every time I come home from university, my first meal will always be of shrimp and crabs – which are expensive and generally not worth it in Metro Manila – and one of my last meals before the semester starts will be arroz caldo. One Christmas, we had arroz caldo, too. It is a dish of many memories for me.
My favorite arroz caldo in the vicinity of my current residence is from a carinderia or kitchenette called Sefali’s at Krus na Ligas. (I don’t have pictures. I don’t have an iPhone or a camera. I feel my lifestyle is justified especially because I live in a developing country.) It’s actually more of lugaw (rice porridge) with chicken than arroz caldo, and sometimes – depending on who’s on kitchen duty – it’s too watery or bland. I like it though. It’s orange. That makes it interesting. I think.