It is undeniable that lugaw is one of the most beloved Filipino comfort foods, but did you know that it is also one of the earliest documented foods of our ancestors? In the 1613 Vocabulario de la Lengua Tagala by Fr. Pedro de San Buenaventura, it is defined as “rice mixed with milk or water or of both (porridge).”
What is lugaw?
The definition of lugaw may sound simple, but lugaw in all its hearty glory has subtle but complex flavors. And as is common in Filipino cuisine, lugaw has evolved into different variations in different regions.
For example, you might be wondering: what is the difference between lugaw vs arroz caldo? Lugaw is the most simple version of this Filipino porridge: it is made with garlic, onion, ginger, water, and rice (either long-grain rice, malagkit or glutinous rice, or a mixture of both). Arroz caldo, from the Spanish arroz meaning “rice” and caldo meaning “broth”, is its spicier cousin: it is made with the same ingredients as lugaw, but with the addition of dried kasubha or safflower which gives it its signature yellow color, and chicken.
Are you craving for lugaw yet?
Here are some tips on how to make the most delicious lugaw recipes at home:
1 Spice it up.
The combination of garlic, onions, and ginger is already a beautiful trifecta of flavors, but that doesn’t mean you can’t spruce up your lugaw with other spices. If you want a fresher ginger flavor and add a dash of color to your plain lugaw, you can add a teaspoon or two of turmeric. This also serves as a great substitute if you want to make arroz caldo but can’t find kasubha.
Want a little more heat? Add chili flakes or cayenne pepper. Aside from seasoning with salt and black pepper, you can also try Spanish paprika for a smokier flavor.
2 Fry the rice and stock up.
These steps are optional, but they can make a world of difference. Frying or sautéing the rice with the garlic, onion, and ginger coats the grains in fat and infuses the flavor from the aromatics. After washing the rice, drain and set aside. Fry the aromatics until fragrant, then add the rice. Sauté until the moisture evaporates, and then add the stock.
Meanwhile, using stock or broth instead of water also elevates the taste of your lugaw recipe, and can set it up to pair nicely with your preferred side dish. Depending on your preferences, you can use chicken, pork, seafood, or even beef stock to make your lugaw even more savory!
3 Be generous with toppings.
Because simple lugaw recipes can taste quite neutral, it is usually served with a variety of toppings! A classic dish would be lugaw with egg, which is hard-boiled. Lugawans or restaurants that specialize in selling this Filipino porridge also always have crispy toasted garlic and chopped dahon sibuyas or spring onions as lugaw toppings. Aside from garlic and spring onions, arroz caldo is usually topped or served with chicken, while the indulgent goto wouldn’t be complete without fried pork rinds or chicharon! If you prefer the Chinese version, you could also top your congee with a century egg and fried wonton wrappers.
4 Pair it up with side dishes.
Even though a bowl (or two) or piping hot lugaw is already a meal unto itself, you can improve your experience by pairing your plain lugaw with side dishes. The most classic pairing: tokwa’t baboy. This fried tofu and pork belly appetizer is crispy and tossed in a salty and sour sauce that just makes sense with lugaw. If you want it to be extra crunchy, try our tokwa’t bagnet recipe!
Other great side dishes that go well with lugaw are tokneneng (chicken eggs deep-fried in an orange batter, much like kwek-kwek which uses quail eggs instead) or lumpiang togue (mung bean sprout rolls) on the side with lugaw.
5 Get adventurous with these twists.
The humble lugaw, plain as it may be, is a great jumping-off point for variations. Once you’ve got the basic recipe down pat, you can experiment with other twists! If you want an earthy flavor with a little seafood twist, try this Red Rice Lugaw or this indulgent Fish and Sausage Congee.
You can also go pescetarian with this Fish Congee Recipe. Can’t get enough of Filipino comfort foods? Try combining bulalo with lugaw to make the bulalugaw! Lastly, if you want to be a little more indulgent, try this Spicy Pork Lugaw!