IN THE MOOD FOR PORRIDGE & SOUPS: How to cook Congee
June 22, 2020 | 4:00 pm
Before we get into cooking, you may be one of the hundreds of people asking the difference between congee, lugaw, arroz caldo, and goto. It is a fun thing to think that a seemingly simple dish can have four faces with four different flavor profile. These are all rice porridge but what makes it differ from the other? Let’s find out!
Congee is a dish all the way from the Chinese roots made out of cooking rice/sticky rice in chicken stock or salted water and served with soy sauce, ginger, and spring onion. It is one of the simplest and basic comfort food not only in China, but in the Philippines, too. Its taste profile is dominantly subtle and sometimes close to bland. The addition of soy sauce, ginger, and spring onions gives some hints of flavor to it.
Lugaw is believed to be a descendant of the foreign congee. Filipinos, having access to fish sauce, added it to the original congee template giving it a distinct balanced salty taste. Lugaw can be served with egg or simply plain topped with spring onions and toasted garlic. With the added Fish Sauce, Lugaw’s flavor profile is savory and toothsome.
When the Spanish set foot on Philippine soil, they introduced a lot of food ingredients. One of these is Saffron, which is usually incorporated in Paella giving it its distinct yellow color. Saffron is added to the Lugaw template for an appetizing color. Arroz Caldo also has chicken meat and innards to complement the rice porridge. But in the modern days, Kasubha, a local and cheaper alternative of Saffron, is used in order to achieve the color of Arroz Caldo. With the added chicken meat, Arroz caldo’s flavor profile includes a meaty and savory richness to the porridge.
Goto is believed to obtain its name from its translation, “Tripe”, which is a part of a beef stomach that is usually incorporated as the meat component of this rice porridge. It is also referred to as Beef Lugaw. Since beef is used in this rice porridge, the stock or soup becomes richer and bolder since beef as a distinct depth of flavor compared to chicken. It adds to the overall meaty flavor of the dish.
Tips for cooking Congee:
- In a post by Asian Food Network, a professional chef suggested a few tips in making a perfect fish congee. She mentioned that for a fluffier rice that puffs when cooked, you can opt to wash the rice, strain it and while it is damp, transfer it in a plastic container and put it in the freezer. You can store this rice for up to 6 months. When ready to cook, pull it out of the freezer, break the iced rice apart and cook it away.
- Congee is a simple dish with simple ingredients that tends to be overcooked. There is a solution in avoiding this pitfall. Measure your ingredients. A recipe is standardized so that you don’t have to do trial and error. Make sure to have the correct amount of water and rice so that you won’t end up adding up water to your overly thick congee ending up with your dish being overcooked. It’s all in the measurements and ratio of rice and water.
- When reheating a left over congee, you may end up with an overly lumpy and thick congee. One tip that will cover up this pitfall is to add a bit of boiling water to your cold congee before setting it up on the stove. This will temper the congee to have its temperature a bit up prompting the onset of heat.
Whether you’re in the mood of some soothing and subtle porridge or a tasty meaty stock, there’s a perfect choice for you. Whether you prefer congee, lugaw, arroz caldo, or goto, you can level it up by using protein and calcium-packed AJI SAVOR™ on Rice to add chicken and beef flavors to your rice porridge. Enjoy healthy, simple, and house-friendly recipes, mga ka-Cookmunity®!
Christian Joseph S. Baluyot, RND is AJINOMOTO PHILIPPINES CORPORATION’s Junior Specialist for Culinary Nutrition. He develops recipe, conducts nutrition research and provides nutrition information as a licensed nutritionist-dietitian. Jhay graduated at the Manila Tytana Colleges with a Bachelor’s Degree in Holistic Nutrition with Culinary Arts.
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