Congee? Lugaw? Arroz Caldo?

When I was a kid, we regularly had congee… on most Sundays we had lunch at a Chinese dimsum restaurant and the main meal was either noodles or congee.  My favorite was Lean Pork and Century Egg Congee, sans the fresh egg!

Sadly that restaurant no longer exists.  But my favorite congee variant is pretty common and can be found virtually in any Chinese dimsum restaurant!

At the same time, we had lugaw too.  As I knew it, lugaw is a plain, no flavor, thick but at the same time watery rice that was usually served to me when I was not feeling well.  Needless to say, I do not have nice memories of lugaw!

And then, there is arroz caldo… rice gruel that is savory and deliciously seasoned – with ginger strips, chicken or beef tripe, spring onions, fried garlic!

What’s the difference?  Darned if I know!!!! all of them are rice porridge/gruel dishes.  As far as I am concerned, lugaw is straight-up rice and water and nothing else… great for calming an upset stomach or relieving a headache…

As for congee and/or arroz caldo, I feel they are the same just with different flavor profiles.

In any case, we all know that the secret is to keep stirring the pot, otherwise the rice sticks to the bottom and the dish would be ruined.

But I am too lazy to stand by the stove and stir, so I make mine in my magic cooker (thermal cooker)… which I truly believe is the easiest way to make congee.  It does, however, take a certain amount of time, so I always begin the night before.

8 cups chicken stock
1/2 to 3/4 cup rice

1 large thumb of ginger
1 small onion, whole, skin peeled off and ends sliced off
spring onions, sliced finely

800 grams chicken, cleaned, chopped into serving pieces
50 grams fresh enoki mushrooms
50 grams fresh shiitake mushrooms

salt and pepper, to taste
sesame oil, to taste
toasted garlic or fried garlic

How easy is this recipe?  Well, it is as easy as dumping everything (not including the condiments – salt, pepper, sesame oil, garlic) in the inner pot and letting it boil for 15 minutes before putting the inner pot into the magic cooker and letting it sit overnight.

The next morning, I just reheat the pot (the pot looks very much undone when it is first opened but a few minutes on the stove and the magic is seen!), give the dish several stirs and the congee is done.  What is left is to season, garnish and serve the dish!










Lemon Cream Muffin

On a whim, and because our lemon plant has been busy, I thought of baking some lemon muffins.  But I knew the little girl would not want a “plain” muffin, I thought of adding her favorite (of the moment) blueberry jam to top the muffins.

The recipe:

2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup soft cream cheese
1/2 cup 70$ blueberry jam

Preheat oven to 350F.  Line 12 muffin cups with baking paper cups.

Mix wet ingredients together; set aside.  Mix dry ingredients together.  Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients.  Stir until just about mixed.

Divide the batter and spoon into the baking cups.  Spoon a scant tablespoon of cream cheese on the center of the muffin batter, followed by a scant tablespoon of jam.  If desired, sprinkle a pinch of turbinado sugar on top for some crunch

Bake about 12 minutes or so until a tester comes out clean.

The muffins were a hit with the little girl, but not so much her 2 playmates.  The playmates’ parents, however, were quite impressed!!!


Banana-Rum Jam

Yes, another jam!  And I am beginning to like a bit of booze in my jams!

I followed the basic recipe of 1 kilogram bananas and 300 grams of vanilla sugar (although I found it a tad too sweet) and adding a couple of tablespoons of my favorite rum!  And, following friend T’s advice of adding lemon or lime to jam, I harvested a couple of dayap (native lime) and added it in as well.  (Don’t forget the pectin!)

The results were fantastic!!!



Mixed Berry-Vanilla-Boubon Jam

Low sugar, too!

All thanks to a good friend who gave me packets of pectin.  This is my first experiment!


I used to make jam without pectin, simply because I didn’t know where to get pectin.  We certainly don’t have it in supermarkets!  The texture was not quite right and I could never make a large batch because I feared it wouldn’t last long (I didn’t know how to preserve it either).

But following the instructions on the packet (thanks for the translation, T!), it couldn’t be any easier!  Of course I gave it my own peculiar twist and added a couple more ingredients.

1 kilogram of mixed berries – strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries
300 grams vanilla sugar
2 vanilla pods
2 tablespoons bourbon
1 packet pectin

Roughly chop the berries.  Add the bourbon and toss; set aside.  Scrape the vanilla seeds from the pods and mix into the sugar with the pectin.

Meanwhile, sterilize 6 180-ml jam jars.

Stir the berries and sugar together and place into a pot.  The berry-sugar mix should only half-fill the pot.

Bring the pot to a slow boil and simmer for about 5 minutes.

Spoon or pour the berry mixture into the sterilized jam jars and seal immediately.  Turn the jars upside down.  Cool at room temperature.


We definitely could not finish all of the jam on our own so we gave 5 bottles away to family and friends!  And as I had some free time, I made labels for the jam!