It's been frosty at the office, not because of intrigues, but because the cold Siberian winds have weakened the sun's power at this time of the year, greatly enhancing the cooling intensity of our building's air-conditioners. There have been thick, grey clouds, too, blanketing skies for as far as we could see, that proceeded to drizzle last night.
That put us right in the mood for lugaw, delivered right to our offices smoking hot. Lugaw in the common language is the local equivalent of congee - soupy rice that is a canvas ready for swaths and slashes of contrasting and complementary flavors. There is fried minced garlic for the savory, finely sliced spring onion for spice, and sliced kalamansi for a citrusy dimension.
In our suki's vocabulary lugaw has two definitions - goto (tripe) or isaw (intestines and various offals). Both versions possessing bite, adding chewy texture to the softness of the rice porridge, but the isaw proving to be the more flavorful. Chicken arroz caldo is by special order, and requires advanced booking.
It is quite difficult eating chicken arroz caldo at the office, with small containers and plastic spoons and forks that are bound to break at the slightest try of slicing meaty chicken parts. But we order chicken lugaw more often since the average age is high, and uric acid and hypertension are big concerns. We order the chicken meat shredded, and it comes topped on the lugaw.
To ramp things up a bit for us young ones, we order a bilao of tokwa't baboy - fried squares of tofu and pork belly. This comes with a 1-liter bottle of dipping sauce - a mixture of vinegar, soy sauce and minced onions. They are traditionally eaten together, but I make my lugaw lumpy and more substantial by mixing in the tokwa't baboy into my bowl. I then pour some dipping sauce over, and this produces a vinegary, sweet-salty porridge with chewy morsels.
Also delivers ginataang bilo-bilo!
Aling Baby's Lugawan
But I have a new favorite. It offers a choice of chicken wings or adobong atay at balun-balunan as topping to the lugaw, besides the default goto. Chicken wings are more skin and bones, but adobo on lugaw was an eye-popping revelation. But then it shouldn't have come as a surprise, since it is quite difficult to eat adobo without rice, and this is is just a soupy version.
As it goes, all lugaw orders from any lugawan comes with garlic, spring onions and kalamansi. This lugaw goes further in the congee route by providing chili oil. Which heats up things a bit more. Tokwa't baboy can also be ordered separately, plus boiled eggs are available, priced per piece.
Since Lent is fast approaching, I'll be okay with eating lugaw at the office regularly, even if the cold disappears. But then it won't be penitence with these.
Dinilawang Arroz Caldo
Arroz Tres Leches