Runny nose. Icky, itchy throat. Tired eyes. Fuzzy headedness.
I felt the sickness coming on yesterday, and tried to ignore it by going about my regular routine and working a full shift. As I used long sentences in my conversations with people, I went breathless and felt as if I were going to collapse from the lack of air. I gulped down glasses of water and ate normal, hard foods, but my refusal to acknowledge the inevitable only seemed to hasten its arrival. I wanted nothing more than to curl up in my bed with a glass of water and a steaming bowl of my mom’s homemade chicken porridge.
Although I say “porridge”, in reality, the dish I remember is the filipino lugao. My mom would cook it with grated ginger since I would throw a fit as a kid if I would bite into sliced pieces of it. Whenever I would fall ill, this was the dish that nursed me back to health. When I moved away for college, I completely underestimated my reliance on this dish and its magical ability to soothe both my body and soul. The first time I got sick, I went into homesick despair, and wanted nothing to do with American chicken noodle soup. I wanted my bed at home, my mom’s hand on my back, and a heartwarming bowl of lugao.
It wasn’t until I picked up anime that I re-visited my desire to have this dish, and by that point, I was confident enough to try to make it myself. I noticed that every time a character became sick in an anime, they more than likely were brought back to health by a dish that looked remarkably a lot like my mom’s lugao. Call it what you may: arroz caldo, lugao, congee, or okayu, the basic idea of a rice porridge is the same. Sometimes I go the plain Japanese route (especially when I don’t want to drive to the store for groceries) and use only water, rice, and salt. At other times, I lean a bit more toward lugao and arroz caldo, using chicken stock, thicker slices of chicken, soy sauce, and a poached egg.
Recipe (Source: BellaOnline, Lila Voo):
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 tsp. garlic salt
- 1-inch piece fresh ginger
- 1 green onion
- ½ cup long grain white rice
- 5 cups chicken broth
- 1 tbsp. cooking sherry
- 2 tsp. soy sauce
- ¼ tsp. white pepper
- 4 to 5 sprigs fresh cilantro
- Remove all of the fat from the chicken breasts. Then cut each breast into about 1-inch wide and ¼-inch thick slices. Sprinkle the chicken slices with the garlic salt using your hand to mix it in thoroughly. Then, set these pieces aside.
- Using a knife or the edge of a spoon, remove the peel from the piece of ginger. Then, dice it into tiny pieces and set them aside.
- Rinse the green onion under cold running water and dry it with a paper towel. Cut off the bottom base about an inch from the top of the greens and discard. Cut the remaining stalk into small slices and set these pieces aside.
- In a clay pot or dutch oven, add the rice, broth, chicken slices, ginger, sherry, soy sauce, and white pepper. Stir lightly to combine, then turn the heat on medium high and bring this mixture to a boil.
- Once the mixture boils, turn the heat to low, cover and let it simmer for 1 ½ hours, stirring every so often. Make sure to stir it thoroughly so that the rice does not stick to the bottom of the pot.
- After 1 ½ hours, remove the lid and stir one final time. The congee should have the texture of a thick porridge. If you prefer a more watery congee, simply add a bit more chicken broth. If you like your congee thicker, then just let it simmer a bit longer.
- Once the congee reaches your desired texture, remove it from the heat. To serve, place the congee into bowls and garnish each one with the cilantro and green onions.
Notes and Substitutions:
- Depending on the strength desired for chicken flavor, chicken broth can be substituted with percentages of water.
- Congee tastes fine even w/o ginger and green onion, but for some other options, add fried garlic, to taste.
- Black pepper can be substituted for white pepper. Black pepper has a stronger flavor, but doesn’t look as pretty in the white-ish porridge.
- Short grain white rice works fine if long grain white rice isn’t available.
- Since I don’t like white meat, I use skinless, boneless chicken thighs instead.
Want to go the more traditional Japanese way? Try FOODjimoto’s Okayu recipe!