Arroz Caldo, healthy style (pearl barley and chicken congee)

One of my favorite childhood comfort foods is the Filipino dish called "arroz caldo"--literally, rice soup. Like most of my mom's home cooking, her arroz caldo recipe is easy--brown some chicken, add some fish sauce (patis!) and a couple gloves of garlic, toss in a cup of long-grain rice and about 8 cups of water, toss in a few hunks of ginger, season with salt and pepper, and walk away for 90 minutes or an hour until you have a tasty, aromatic porridge. Because I'm trying to cut down on white rice, I decided to mix up a pot or arroz caldo with some pearl barley.

pearl barley "congee"

While the barley didn't turn totally soft the way white rice does, I still loved the outcome. The barley stayed al dente, like risotto (same ideas, basically), and absorbed the aromatic liquid while giving off just enough starch to thicken it up.

Arroz Caldo with Pearl Barley

Brown in a stew pot:
1 whole chicken, divided, in just a sheen of oil

Add and color:
1/2 chopped onion and two mashed garlic cloves

Season with:
1 healthy dash of salt (1/2 tsp) and 5 grinds of pepper

Stir in:
1 slosh of patis (about 2 Tbs)
3 hunks (about the size of an average-sized grape) of peeled and slightly smashed ginger

Then add and stir in:
1 cup pearl barley

And finally add and bring to a boil:
8 cups of water or chicken stock.

Let the whole thing simmer until it's either al dente or softer--at least 90 minutes. If you have it, top with green onion or a squeeze of kalamnsi (Filipino citrus).


Kitt said…
That looks pretty easy and tasty!
Ed said…
Ahhh yes!
Childhood memories and a New Year's Tradition indeed!!!

Thanks for sharing! I didn't know about the Patis part though!! LOL.

I have made it without it.
Julie said…
Kitt, thanks! It is easy--I posted the recipe right after you posted your comment. =)

Ed--yup, it's the patis that gives it its distinct flavor!
Manang said…
Hi Julie,
I have been doing the same thing with my arroz caldo recently since I tasted canned gumbo soup with barley in it. I thought..."Hmmm, almost like lugaw only more chewy. So I bought a small pack of barley, and I have been adding a handful to the 1 cup of rice when I cook lugaw. My kids never detect the difference. Not that I wanted to keep it a secret...
Julie said…
Manang, I'm glad the barley addition is working out for you! It's a positive, healthy addition. Now that the weather is cooling here in Arizona, it's arroz caldo time again, so I'm getting ready to make some. Thanks for writing!

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