RT Cunningham


Rice Soup by Any Other Name Would Still Be Rice Soup

Filipino Arroz Caldo - rice soup Congee is the proper English word for rice soup, porridge or gruel. Most English speakers, however, are unfamiliar with the word and probably because it sounds Asian. I ate a form of congee when I was young, when my mother and older siblings (the oldest women) treated it just like grits or oatmeal. They called it rice soup back then. I’ve eaten it a few times since I moved to the Philippines in 2006. Filipinos have a whole bunch of different names for it, depending on how it’s cooked, but they never call it rice soup.

Arroz Caldo Instead of Plain Rice Soup

Lugaw is the Tagalog word for plain rice soup (or congee, but I’m sticking with soup). When you add meat or vegetables to it, the word (or name) changes to arroz caldo. It sounds Spanish and that’s because it’s Spanish-influenced.

I just had some with chicken yesterday, though I removed the chicken and let my wife eat my chicken with hers. I wanted more of it, without the chicken, but my oldest nephew (living in our compound) snatched the last of it before I could get to it.

If you take Lugaw and add some cocoa powder, it becomes tsamporado (pronounced “champorado”). These days, parents are more likely to add Milo because you can find it at all the neighborhood mini-stores. I’ve never eaten it and I probably never will.

Rice Soup Instead of Heavier Dishes

I’ve basically sworn off most types of meat. Not really because I’m on a diet or anything, but because it makes me feel heavier after eating. It tends to make me feel bloated, even when I’ve eaten very little meat. I can’t blame it on any meat in particular (beef, pork, poultry or fish). They all seem to have the same effect on me.

Now, when I eat meals without any meat, I feel just fine. One of the reasons I avoid soft drinks is because they make me feel bloated, even if I only have one. An exception is when I’m drinking alcohol. I use Coke or some other soft drink as a mixer. Someday, I’ll probably find something better to use as a mixer, but Coke is everywhere and it’s difficult to find something better in the Philippines.

Anyway, I can have one form of rice soup or another to replace any meal of the day and it suits me just fine. It’s obviously not the only thing I’ll eat. It’s just one of the many “light” dishes I prefer.

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By RT Cunningham
January 11, 2015
Food and Drink

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