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What are your best lugaw memories?

RAZZLE-DAZA - Pat-P Daza (The Philippine Star) - April 26, 2021 - 12:00am

Weeks ago, “lugaw love” was a hot topic. It was triggered by a video that eventually went viral, showing a lady kagawad from Bulacan accosting a Grab driver who was on his way to pick up an order of lugaw (rice porridge) from a lugawan at around 1 a.m. of March 30. The barangay tanods and some police officers questioned why the store was operating and why delivery riders were in the area when there was a curfew. They insisted that lugaw is not essential and that the lugawan and driver had no business operating during the curfew. This was a day after the National Capital Region (NCR) was again placed under Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), with a curfew imposed from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. Netizens who saw the video professed their support for the Grab driver and even posted pictures of themselves on social media enjoying a bowl of piping hot lugaw. On April 1, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque issued a statement classifying “lugaw” as an essential food item. Case closed.

Lugaw or rice porridge is rice cooked in lots of water until the mixture is transformed into a thick soup. It has many names: Arroz caldo, congee and goto, whose key ingredient is ox tripe, the honeycomb lining found in a cow’s stomach.

Though my lugaw of choice is the plain rice porridge without salt or pepper, I sometimes add sweet potato to make it a tad more flavorful. It’s my go-to (pun intended) dish when I’m under the weather or have LBM. Lugaw isn’t oily, is easy to digest and comes with enough carbohydrates to make you feel stronger. When I’m not ill, I like my lugaw with several side dishes that are available in certain grocery stores. These include minced pork with bamboo shoots and mushrooms (a.k.a. Chaosansi), century or salted duck eggs, steamed tofu with light soy sauce or a dash of chili oil, crispy pickled vegetables and mahu (pork flakes). These side dishes were introduced to me when I was a child by my late Chinese maternal grandmother, Lolita Yap. I remember how she would prepare lugaw for me and my mom after the holidays as a break from all the rich foods we ate.

On the other hand, arroz caldo is “fancier” because you sauté the chicken in onions, garlic and ginger, and season it with salt and pepper. To get the yellowish color, you can add a pinch of our local version of saffron, kasubha, or saffron if you’re feeling sosyal. Finally, top it off with a hard-boiled egg or itlog na maalat, tokwa’t baboy, crispy dilis, crispy garlic bits, green onions and patis with calamansi, yum!

Whether it’s called lugaw, arroz caldo, congee or goto, this staple conjures for many Filipinos memories of their moms or lolas laboring in the kitchen and lovingly preparing it by chopping, sauteing and boiling. And whether it was prepared so that a member of the family would feel better if they were ill, or simply provide the family a hearty, comforting meal on a cold or rainy day, you can always count on a steaming bowl of lugaw to hit your tummy’s sweet spot.

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