Last week I couldn’t eat normal food, because my 사랑니 (wisdom tooth) was torturing me again. I had eaten only instant mushroom soup for days, and I was getting hungry. I suddenly missed my Mom’s lugaw (Filipino rice porridge), which she used to cook for me every time I was ill.
In the Philippines, lugaw is the most common food for the sick and the elderly. It is easy to prepare, so most Filipinos cook it in the house. Rice is boiled with slices of fresh ginger. (I like mine with hard-boiled egg.) Once cooked, the lugaw is placed in a bowl, and is topped with chopped spring onions and bits of fried garlic. To add more flavor to the lugaw, some Filipinos put calamansi and patis (fish sauce), but I like mine very sour and less salty, so I put more calamansi and just a little fish sauce.
Sometimes, a special kind of this rice porridge, called arroz caldo, is sold in the turo-turo (local eatery or diner). It has big pieces of chicken meat. When Mom cooks arroz caldo, she always gives me the leg or the thigh part of the chicken. Those are my favorite parts. ^^
The first time my husband ate arroz caldo was in a carinderia (another name for turo-turo) in Angeles City. It was past midnight and he had just finished eating balut (fertilized duck embryo) and fish ball, but as we passed by the carinderia, he got curious with the yellow color of the rice porridge some Pinoys (Filipinos) were eating, so he said he wanted to try it. Arroz Caldo is yellow in color because of a spice called saffron which is added to it… (but don’t worry, despite its bright color, it’s safe to eat. ^^) My husband thought it was delicious. He said they have it in Korea, too, but the texture of the rice and the ingredients are entirely different.
(If you miss arroz caldo and you’d like to prepare it abroad, you can still cook it Filipino style using other ingredients, like lemon instead of calamansi. Here is a video of how to prepare arroz caldo. For more Filipino recipes, visit Panlasang Pinoy on Youtube.)
I told my husband my craving for lugaw or arroz caldo, so he bought me 죽 (juk or jook: rice porridge in Korea). Juk is also considered the best food for the sick, the elderly and babies who have just started eating solid food. It was also Korea’s staple food during the war. There are more than 40 kinds of juk which are documented in Korea’s traditional recipes. No wonder there are so many flavors of rice porridge to choose from in a Korean juk store.
I like the consistency of juk. The rice is finer, so it is easier to digest. However, the taste is too bland for me if I don’t add salt and pepper. Our rice porridge in the Philippines is more flavorful. You can enjoy it as a regular meal. Having little or no flavor at all, juk is always served with tastier side dishes such as kimchi, jeotgal (salted fermented food made with shrimp, shellfish, oysters, fish, fish eggs and fish intestines), shredded beef, etc.
My favorite juk in Korea is called 잣죽 (jatjuk or jatjook). Jatjuk is rice porridge made from finely ground pine nuts and rice flour or non-glutinous rice. It is seasoned with salt and garnished with pine nuts and sliced jujubes. It is sweet, soft and has a rich and creamy taste. In the olden days, it was food for the king.
Here is a video of how to make jatjuk.
I was surprised to see many juk stores and restaurants in Korea, and the price of rice porridge here is not cheap. Perhaps because of the busy lifestyle of people in Korea, Koreans would rather eat juk in a restaurant or order it for takeout rather than prepare it in the house. I told my husband I would just cook simple lugaw, but he said: “Why bother when you can buy juk right in front of our apartment?” He ordered 야채죽 (vegetable juk) for me, which I gobbled up despite my throbbing wisdom tooth’s disapproval. ^^
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