Along with cherry blossoms, movies, and shopping, my weekend was filled with a satisfying grocery store visit to Whole Foods. While it can be a little outside of what I like to normally spend, I reserve visits to Whole Foods for when I need good, eco-friendly meat. Whenever I am there though I always get tempted by the tantalizing produce that just calls…BUY ME! EAT ME! and then I always do. One purchase this weekend on my Whole Foods adventure was a carton of mangoes. So this morning, I made breakfast of fruit champions…mangoes, clementines, apples, and bananas (oh and popcorn…I still had some left over from the movies last night *smiles*). Which brings us to my story about mango.
Ever do something or eat something that you thought was completely normal only to look up and notice the abject looks of horror on people’s faces watching you? Enter in: Mango…Filipino style. Ever since I was little, mango was a staple fruit at my house. It was one of my favorite fruits, and my love for it grew when I actually visited the Philippines (so amazing fresh!) and also Costa Rica (the best mango ice cream smoothies I have ever tasted!). Filipinos like to eat mango in all forms. The unripe form is often eaten with salt, fish sauce, chili sauce or soy sauce. The variety my family liked to eat was mango with Silver Swan soy sauce. Why I clarify the type of soy sauce is because Filipino soy sauce tastes vastly different than the varieties one eats with sushi. Ingredients in Filipino soy sauce are a combination of soy beans, wheat, caramel, and salt. It is thinner and saltier than many of its Asian soy sauce counterparts and is a staple in much of Filipino cuisine. I never thought it was odd to eat mangoes dipped in soy sauce…until college of all time. One night during a normal night of friends, food and games, I sliced up a couple under-ripe mangoes and served them with soy sauce to my friends. I still laugh at the looks on their faces when I progressed to dip the mango into the soy sauce and bring it to my mouth. Needless to say, some people enjoyed this twist on mango and others did not. I am certainly enjoying my mango with a twist this morning. Yum!
As a Filipina American, my food cravings tend to lean towards my heritage and like most people… my childhood (especially when I am sick). Up until I was 7 years old my Filipino grandparents (on my mom’s side) lived at our house in a basement apartment. It is one of the things that I remember most fondly of growing up was having that second set of parents. My Lolo (grandfather in Tagalog) was a quieter man who spent hours upon hours tending his garden or reading, and my Lola (grandmother in Tagalog) I always remember as the Filipino chef. My parents would go on vacation and I would pretend that our house was a huge private airplane with my grandmother as the plane’s private chef. Life was always an adventure when I was 5. Another thing I remember about my Lola was her healing touch and healing food when I was sick. Enter lugaw (looh-gow) the Filipino version of congee (rice porridge). Also called Arroz Caldo (“hot rice”) it is typically served to the sick or small infants when completely solid food is not recommended yet. It is very similar to Cantonese style congee, but lugaw typically a thicker consistency, that retains the shape of the rice while achieving the same type of texture. It is boiled with fresh ginger. A lot of times it is topped with scallions and served with crispy, fried garlic. Chicken stock is also used to flavor the soup.
I decided in my sick state that while I am living on my own and my grandmother is no longer with us…I would prepare my version of some chicken arroz caldo for my poor sick body.
- 5-6 chicken thighs (boneless or bone-in) (One can use the meat of a whole chicken to get the mix of white and dark)
- 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
- 2 cups of uncooked rice (perferrably an Asian variety)
- 1 lemon
- 1 cup green onion (scallions), more more garnish
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 6 cloves of garlic, pressed of finely minced
- 4 tablespoons of ginger (you can do more of less of this depending on how gingery you want the lugaw)
- *1 hot chili, finely minced ( (I like most of my food spicy and when I have a head cold it opens things up…traditionally you don’t want any chilies)
- 8 cups chicken broth
- 6 cups water
- salt and pepper, to taste
- In a large Dutch oven (or pot) heat up vegetable oil. Place pieces of chicken in oil. Salt and pepper the chicken and cook about 5 minutes on each side. Remove chicken from the pot onto plate with paper towel to absorb the oil.
- Add the scallions, onion, garlic, ginger, (and chili if adding) to the pot and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stirring so that the garlic does not burn.
- Add in the rice, cook about 30 seconds, then add the broth and water to the pot.
- Bring liquid to a boil. Juice half of the lemon into the pot, making sure no seeds fall in.
- Cook the rice for 45 minutes, stirring frequently (about every 10 – 15 minutes). Add in more liquid if the rice is absorbing too fast. (I usually end up adding an additional 3-4 cups of water. One every time I go to restir)
- Add the chicken back into the pot. Add juice from the other half of the lemon. Cook for an additional 30 minutes, again stirring frequently to make sure the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot (The rice will stick worse if you are using a nonstick type pot).
- Ladle into bowl and garnish with scallions.