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  • Writer's pictureCulinary Cam

From the Basics: Lugaw (Filipino Rice Porridge) #FoodiesReads

This was inspired by reading When Jasmine Blooms by Tif Marcelo.

I picked up this book for the cover. Really. I did. I can admit it.

On the Page


l heard this touted as a modern retelling of Little Women. Aside from the four daughters, I didn't really see that. Perhaps, though, it's been too long since I've read the novel by Louisa May Alcott and I need to revisit it. To me, however, this was more along the lines of the movie It's a Wonderful Life.

Celine and Quinn had four daughters, but their youngest passed away two years ago. Celine threw herself headlong into her self-help empire, never mentions Libby's name, and has distanced herself from everyone in her life. Her family stages and intervention. Enraged, she storms out of the intervention and falls off the stage at her event. When she wakes up, she is in an alternate reality where she never married Quinn and never had any children. In that reality, Libby is Elizabeth and Celine's tenant; the other three daughters are employees of the Celine Lakad dynasty.

As you can imagine, during her experience in her alternate life, she regains consciousness determined to re-engage in her life and embrace her husband and three daughters. This is a tale of grief, redemption, and second chances.

The house in which Celine and Quinn raised their family is named Sampaguita, the national flower of the Philippines. I had no idea that the common name for that flower is Arabian jasmine; it makes complete sense. That heady floral scent is reminiscent of the jasmine we have here on California's central coast. And I learned that pikake (in Hawaiian) is the same flower, too!

Did I forget to mention that Celine is of Filipino descent? Because of that, Filipino food makes an appearance. And for the second time this month, ensaymada has crossed my path. Pia was raving about the ensaymada she bought at the Foodieland event. In the book, Celine narrated: "Christmas wasn’t Christmas without ensaymada, unless, of course, they didn’t get made. So I worked quickly, shaping the sweet butter-and-sugar rolls for the second rise, then lining them up in deep pans. A half hour in a warm kitchen, then another thirty minutes in the oven, and my work would be done. Tomorrow’s Christmas breakfast would be set, and the rest of the menu would be gravy. The whole kitchen could have gone up in smoke, but so long as the kids had their ensaymada, they were as happy as clams."

In the Bowl

I was inspired into the kitchen when Celine cooks with Elizabeth, her tenant in this reality who looks exactly like Celine's dead daughter, Libby.

"'What do you have at your house?' 'Hmm. Basics, I guess?' 'The triad? Green onion, garlic, and ginger?'. ...Rice? Long grain? Eggs?'...From the leftover kitchen items, we took inventory: An old stockpot. Olive oil. A cracked ladle. Also good enough. 'Perfect. How about we make lugaw?' A grin blossomed on her face."

From the basics, this is all in one pot and super simple.


serves 6

  • 3 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

  • 1 Tablespoon oil

  • 4 to 5 cloves garlic peeled

  • 1" ginger knob grated + 1" ginger knob halved

  • 1 cup chopped onions

  • 1 cup chopped carrots

  • 2 Tablespoons fish sauce

  • 1 cup uncooked rice

  • 6 cups chicken stock

  • 2 bay leaves

  • freshly ground salt, to taste

  • freshly ground pepper, to taste

  • Also needed: 6 hard-boiled eggs and sliced green onions for garnish


In a large pot, heat oil. Add in the garlic and stir. Place the chicken thighs skin side down and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Flip the pieces over and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Add in the grated ginger and whole ginger. Cook for another few minutes until the ginger is aromatic.

Add onions and carrots and pour in the fish sauce. Add the rice and stir until the rice is glossy with the oil and chicken fat that's been rendered.

Pour in the stock and add in the bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover, and simmer until the rice is softened and the stew has thickened. Stir occasionally so the rice doesn't stick and burn.

Once the rice has cooked and is to the consistency you desire, season to taste with salt and pepper. You can remove the chicken from the pot and shred for serving.

Ladle into serving bowls. Top with shredded chicken, hard-boiled eggs halved, and green onions. Sprinkle with more salt and pepper, if you like. Serve hot.

I am linking this to our online #FoodieReads group. Here are the other readers' books for June.

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2 comentarios

Wendy Klik
Wendy Klik
24 jun 2023

Sounds and looks delicious Cam.

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Camilla M. Mann
Camilla M. Mann
24 jun 2023
Contestando a

I don't make a lot of Filipino foods. But this is one of my favorites.

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