Whether you call it arroz caldo, congee, jook or something else – this is a true comfort food for many cultures. It warms the belly & soul in cooler weather, but I personally enjoy this year round. If you’ve never had it before, I’d liken it to a chicken and rice soup except the rice here gets very broken down into a porridge texture. It tends to have a boring reputation as some versions are are very plain, but that won’t be the case here!
I cook Chinese-style congee quite often, but after having my first taste of the Filipino version by Nick’s mom, I was captivated. Filipino arroz caldo uses a LOT more aromatics including onion, ginger, and garlic, and these aromatics are often sautéed first with grains of uncooked rice to bring out the flavors more.
This is also the perfect quarantine food as it’s very inexpensive, substitution-friendly, kid-friendly, plus you can make it easily in the Instant Pot! Vegetarians can try this with sliced mushrooms + a good veggie broth.
Today’s recipe incorporates how Nick’s family makes flavorful arroz caldo, elevated by two genius tips he got from this NY Times recipe: 1) collard greens within the congee, and 2) soy cured egg yolks as a topping (optional, but highly recommended).
Since collard greens are a durable veggie, it’s added in the beginning and becomes quite tender by the end and a delicious textural addition (if using delicate greens like spinach, stir those in only at the end to avoid overcooking).
As for soy cured egg yolks, I’m usually all about simplicity so thought this was a totally unnecessary component. However, I tried Nick’s once and now it’s hands-down my favorite topping! We make them in advance and let the yolks “cure” in the fridge for about 24 hours, so they become a little more solidified. The texture as a topping is so creamy, adding a perfect swirl of savoriness to the bowl.
Extra (Ap)Petite: The Best Arroz Caldo / Congee
Makes approx. 6 servings (fills my 5.5 Qt Le Creuset pot). If adjusting portion, just maintain a 1 to 10 ratio for rice to liquid.
- 4 to 6 half inch thick chunks of peeled ginger
- 1 small yellow onion chopped
- 6 to 8 garlic cloves chopped
- 1.5 lbs chicken thighs *
- 1 cup white or brown rice rinsed
- 10 cups liquid (broth and water) **
- 1 bunch collard greens, chopped into small pieces
- Optional: Nick’s mom adds a stalk of lemongrass, pinch of saffron
- Fish sauce, soy sauce, scallions, cilantro, crushed chicharron, fried garlic / shallot
- Soy cured egg yolks (separate out uncooked egg yolks, place into a bowl, cover mostly with soy sauce, refrigerate for 24 hours)
- Sauté aromatics in a little oil over medium-low heat until fragrant.
- Push aromatics to one side and place the chicken in the pot. Season everything with salt and pepper while in the pot, including the aromatics.
- Flip chicken and season the other side. Once both sides of the chicken are lightly browned, stir in the uncooked grains of rice until it’s well coated by the aromatics and oil.
- Add in the liquid and collard greens.
- Once your pot comes to a boil, reduce heat to a low simmer for 2 hours on the stovetop. Stir occasionally, especially towards the end as the rice will start sticking a bit to the bottom.
- Taste and season your pot at the end with a little salt and/or fish sauce. I prefer to keep the pot very lightly seasoned and add the majority of my flavor with toppings!
Instant Pot Directions
- Follow steps 1 through 4 above using the “Sauté” setting.
- Cover and cook using the Porridge setting for 25-30 minutes and allow natural release.
Instant Pot Notes
If you’re short on time / energy, just throw everything all at once into your Instant Pot (we have this 6-quart size one at home). With porridge in the Instant Pot I always do at least 15-20 minutes of “natural release” after unplugging the pot, because hot porridge can sputter out of the pressure release vent if you try to open up the lid too quickly.
After about two hours on stovetop (or 30 minutes + natural venting in the Instant Pot) the consistency should be similar to this, and the chicken should be fork tender and come apart easily:
Arroz Caldo Toppings
Now for the fun part!! If I’m having a quick serving by myself, I’ll just add some simple fish sauce, white pepper, and scallions, but a few of these different textural and flavor components will really elevate your bowl:
- Drizzle of fish sauce and / or soy sauce
- Black or white pepper
- Sliced scallions, cilantro
- Squeeze of lime / calamansi
- Crushed chicharron or pork rinds (soo good for crunch!! any bagged kind from the snack aisle will do)
- Fried garlic or shallots
- Soy cured egg yolks (must make in advance) from NYTimes recipe
- Crack egg and separate yolk from the whites (save the whites for baking or for egg drop soups)
- Gently slide the yolk(s) into a small glass container
- Top with approx. 1 teaspoon soy sauce per yolk – the amount of soy sauce doesn’t have to fully cover the egg yolk, but should cover it at least three quarters of the way
- Refrigerate anywhere from 2 to 48 hours before eating. The yolk gets more “set” and creamier the longer it goes, so after trying a couple of batches we prefer it around the 24 hour mark.
If I’m feeling ambitious and have skin-on chicken thighs, I’ll remove the skin, season the skin with salt & pepper, and cook it separately in the oven or air fryer at about 400 degrees until it becomes crisp like a chip (~ 10 to 15 min; check to avoid burning). SO delicious with a bowl of this!
If you or your family typically make this dish, I’d love to hear how you do it differently!
For more easy meal ideas, check out our other Extra (Ap)Petite posts.