Extra (Ap)Petite: The Best Arroz Caldo / Congee

best congee arroz caldo recipe filipino chinese foodWhether 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.

the best arroz caldo/congee recipe

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.

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4.84 from 12 votes

Extra (Ap)Petite: The Best Arroz Caldo / Congee

Ingredients

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

Topping Ideas

  • 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)

Instructions

Stovetop Directions

  • 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.

Notes

* You can use boneless skinless chicken thighs, bone in thighs or drumsticks. For Chinese congee I use pork ribs or pork back bones plus some dried shrimp & dried scallop, and cook for 40 minutes in the Instant Pot.
** Important to use at least some broth and not all water. We make this with 4 cups of beef broth, and water for the remainder amount. I fill the box up with water to rinse out any residual broth. 
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.

how to make congee at home
arroz caldo step by step recipe
Steps 1 & 2: sauté aromatics til fragrant. Add in chicken & season everything with salt & pepper
Le Creuset Signature Dutch Oven 5.5 qt (also at Crate & Barrel)

easy Filipino recipes
Filipino arroz caldo recipe
Step 3: Stir in uncooked rice until well mixed.

how to make congee
how to cook collard greens for congee
Step 4: Add in broth, water (fill broth box with water) + chopped collard greens

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:

the best congee recipe

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
    1. Crack egg and separate yolk from the whites (save the whites for baking or for egg drop soups)
    2. Gently slide the yolk(s) into a small glass container
    3. 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
    4. 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.

arroz caldo and congee toppings

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.

Leave a Comment

27 Comments

  1. Audrey wrote:

    Do you leave the lid slightly open when simmering for 2 hours?

    Posted 5.13.20 Reply
    • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

      Hi Audrey – I keep my lid closed but you have to be sure the heat is on a very low simmer so it doesn’t boil over. x

      Posted 5.15.20 Reply
  2. Anonymous wrote:

    5 stars
    Amazing recipe

    Posted 4.29.20 Reply
  3. Alex wrote:

    5 stars
    This came together so quickly! Love the addition of the cured egg – had never tried that before.

    Posted 4.29.20 Reply
    • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

      Hi Alex, so glad you liked it! The cured egg is definitely one of our favorite tips gleaned from the NYT Cooking author : )

      Posted 4.29.20 Reply
  4. Katherine wrote:

    Love the idea of beef broth and collard greens! I also put shiitake mushrooms, and a pack of frozen clams in to the instant pot for extra savoriness! Will also have to try the soy-cured egg yolks next time

    Posted 4.28.20 Reply
    • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

      My mom always says some seafood component is a must for Cantonese-style congee (ie the dried scallops or abalone) so Ill have to try the clams sometime!

      Posted 4.29.20 Reply
  5. Kelly wrote:

    Just made it, and my husband and I love it!!! Packs the flavor! And super easy in my IP.

    Posted 4.27.20 Reply
    • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

      I’m so glad you both loved it! x Jean

      Posted 5.4.20 Reply
  6. Maria wrote:

    Arroz caldo is one of my favorite comfort foods. I’ve cooked the dish from an Epicurious recipe, added kale, soft boiled egg, added garlic chili oil from a Bon Appetit chicken soup recipe, which I’ve also made and is bomb! hubby loves it too.

    Posted 4.25.20 Reply
  7. miki wrote:

    I’m a huge fan of congee, I really need to make this Recipe, thank you for sharing!
    Miki x

    Posted 4.25.20 Reply
  8. Anonymous wrote:

    a trick i discovered from thewoksoflife for speeding up congee, sans instant-pot: https://thewoksoflife.com/20-minute-congee-recipe/

    Posted 4.24.20 Reply
    • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

      I hadn’t heard of that technique before, thanks for sharing! x Jean

      Posted 5.4.20 Reply
  9. Sunny wrote:

    This looks delicious! I’m a plain congee gal but I’ve always wanted to try the more flavorful stuff so I think these quarantine times are the perfect time to give it a shot after seeing these pics! One question though–so after reading the soy cured egg yolks recipe..it seems that the yolks are basically raw? I’d that right? I’m not super squeamish about raw yolk and I love soy-marinaded ramen eggs, but just wondering if there was a poaching or other cooking step that I’m missing. Do the yolks “cook” in the hot congee on the stove??

    Posted 4.24.20 Reply
    • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

      Hi Sunny, so they’re not cooked but cured (like ceviche) so also not entirely raw. They do not cook in the hot congee as they go directly from the fridge into your bowl right before serving. I was totally skeptical upon seeing husband make them (as I’m more of an eggs cooked over medium at least kinda gal and don’t like things too raw) but the yolks firm up a little the longer you cure them. We like the 24 hour ish mark and it’s just unlike anything I’ve ever had with congee! Hope you’ll give it a try and let me know what you think!

      And oh, since the soy cured yolks will add saltiness as you break the yolk into the congee, I’d recommend not seasoning too much with soy or fish sauce in your bowl to start.

      Posted 4.25.20 Reply
      • Sunny wrote:

        Gotcha, the ceviche comparison makes sense, thank you! I think it’ll be dinner tomorrow night, looking forward to trying it! My husband isn’t a big congee fan but I’m curious if this version will win him over!

        Posted 4.26.20 Reply
      • Sunny wrote:

        5 stars
        Update: the congee was a hit, especially the salt-cured yolks! You’re so right, it was a very special and unique element and made the whole bowl so rich. I was also pleasantly surprised how well the garlic and ginger permeated the rice and chicken (I used boneless skinless chicken thighs and ginger went super well, I thought!). Will definitely be making this again, thank you!

        Posted 4.29.20 Reply
        • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

          So happy to hear that! The soy cured egg yolks component is hard to describe but very glad you like it as well. I don’t think i’ve seen that anywhere else, at least for congee, before the NYT cooking recipe!

          Posted 4.29.20 Reply
  10. Nilda Simon wrote:

    I use rotisserie chicken as it adds more flavor. I have got to try beef broth next time I make it.
    Fun fact: I’m from the Philippines, and also married to an American so my son is just like Nick’s heritage. My son is also married to a Chinese lady like you.

    Posted 4.24.20 Reply
  11. Mireia wrote:

    This looks so yummy!

    Mireia from TGL

    Posted 4.24.20 Reply
  12. I’m so excited to try this recipe tomorrow night! We just got an Instant Pot and have been looking for new recipes to try! Congee makes me so nostalgic for my late parents, and I haven’t had it in a long time (we don’t have many Asian restaurants in our current city). Thanks for the recipe, Jean!

    Posted 4.24.20 Reply
    • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

      Hi Betty, I hope you enjoy! x Jean

      Posted 5.4.20 Reply
  13. ATC wrote:

    Try adding Yeo’s Salted Beans as a topping! So good! Fried garlic oil and fried shallot oil are good too. I added shiitake and enoki mushrooms as well.

    Posted 4.23.20 Reply
    • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

      Those are great suggestions, I’ll have to give them a try next time! x Jean

      Posted 5.4.20 Reply
  14. Chiara wrote:

    We are having arroz caldo tonight, too! I add a little bit of turmeric powder at the end (when I don’t have saffron) to give it a hint of yellow. Roasted garlic + green onions + hard boiled egg on top! Yum!

    Posted 4.23.20 Reply
    • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

      Sounds delicious! x Jean

      Posted 5.4.20 Reply
  15. Briana wrote:

    I’m definitely going to try!

    Briana

    Posted 4.23.20 Reply

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