Lugaw is essential

In response to the controversy, 10 inventive chefs turn the Filipino comfort dish into a sumptuous necessity

“Is lugaw essential?” asked a barangay official of a delivery rider waiting outside a restaurant past curfew. Some made fun of the question, while others got frustrated, even outraged. Incidentally, the mishap has given the rice pottage newfound recognition, not that it needed any more popularity having served as nourishment for over 3.5 billion people worldwide, according to the National Geographic Society.

The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) has noted that the Filipino glutinous rice gruel is not only essential but also a cultural symbol of the Philippines. The soul-satisfying dish echoes how rice crops are sowed, nurtured in paddies for months, reaped by calloused hands, then milled into delicate grains. It is nothing short of impeccable. It’s not just essential. Lugaw is perfection. Now, from the crazy and harsh realities of a pandemic, it is also a much-needed form of distraction.

Through many variations—simple or elaborate—the mighty lugaw goes beyond an essential good.  

With the idea that the basic fare could also be an inspiration for creativity, the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (CSB) culinary cluster started a challenge where culinary experts presented the comfort food with a contemporary twist. These gourmands from the School of Hotel, Restaurant, and Institution Management (SHRIM) came together in a cook-off to subject the staple to creative transformation.

Culinary program chair, Chef Margarita Marty, initiated the friendly cookout after posting her hearty bowl of the soup on social media. “Several faculty members commented that I only eat sosyal na lugaw but this is not true. I often have it for meals,” she recalls. “This continued until we decided to have a challenge.”

The playful contest resulted in a variety of new recipes based on classics seamlessly blended with rich international flavors.

“This is our own little way of supporting the struggling restaurant industry and the riders,” explains Chef Marty.

Here are the 10 brilliant chefs and their unique lugaw creations.

  1. Chef Erica Aquino’s miso shiitake lugaw

With miso-glazed chicken, spicy pickled wood ear mushrooms, nori flakes, ramen egg, and sesame chili oil, her take is a nod to Japanese cuisine.

  1. Chef Veronica Reyes’ laksa lugaw

Given a Malayan touch, this lugaw version consists of creamy and fragrant seafood broth, topped with poached prawns, fried tofu, and soft-boiled egg.

  1. Chef Kannan Jayaprakash Sreedevi Indian-style lugaw

Monggo and coconut make the difference in this concoction.

  1. Chef Joel Espiritu Erfe’s xiao loo gaw

This is saffron mushroom congee in a pouch with a side of bean sprout salad, crispy pork ears, tofu, poached egg, and a mildly spicy calamansi soy dressing.

  1. Chef Jade Christopher Marquez Lee’s adlai and wild mushroom lugaw

This reinvention merges sous vide egg, crispy pancetta, toasted walnuts, and rosemary oil

  1. Chef Mike Silbor’s prawn bisque lugaw

This comfort bowl boasts of a dash of France with pan-seared river prawns, beurre noisette, and crispy fried leeks.

  1. Chef Roselle Sison-Pangalilingan’s tres leches lugaw

More like dessert, this sweet variant of the porridge comes with raspberry and goji berry compote, spiced with delectable warm vanilla cinnamon.

  1. Chef Zemir Herrera-Rollan’s oatmeal curry lugaw

This one is topped with hard-boiled egg, fried tofu, shredded chicken, toasted garlic, and leeks.

  1.  Chef Jester Arellano’s lugaw tayo kai-vegan

In this healthy bowl is a mix of brown rice, vegetable broth, saffron, and calamansi vinaigrette topped with shiitake mushrooms, bokchoy, carrots, kangkong, malunggay, and chia seeds.

  1. Chef Margarita Marty’s lugaw ni Señora

Headlined by chorizos and crispy jamones served with quail eggs, leeks, and crunchy garlic, this is by the chef who started it all.

The story was first published on April 9, 2021