Philippine Airlines’ iconic rice porridge and Mabuhay Lounge classic can now be delivered at your doorstep
To me, at this point of the pandemic, at the end game, according to infectious diseases expert and Manila Bulletin Lifestyle columnist Dr. Edsel Salvana, when the coronavirus is making its last stand, it’s no longer a bowl of nostalgia, but a bowl of hope—Philippine Airlines’ signature native chicken arroz caldo, heaped with high-grade rice in two trade-secret variants and diced chicken and topped with salted egg, toasted garlic, dulong, chopped onion leaves, and a few drops of calamansi.
I had it recently at home in the form of my very own PAL Arroz Caldo kit, delivered frozen at my doorstep in kraft paper bags. What made it even more special was that it came with farmhouse-style limited-edition reusable wooden bowls and spoons.
While it took me back to the many accumulated hours I had spent at PAL’s Mabuhay Lounge at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2 and other airport lounges elsewhere in the world, this chicken rice porridge for the soul also took me on a direct flight back to the comforts of the good, old days. Every spoonful was a taste of summer vacations in the country, with lola whipping up arroz caldo to break up the long, lazy afternoons or when summer monsoon rains, such as April showers and La Niña cloudbursts in May, would keep us indoors.
On long-haul flights, it is a sought-after meal. The burst of flavors evokes the warmth of home. It is comfort food. It is happiness in a bowl.
But all that was in the past, the DIY arroz caldo kit, as you heat it up on the home stove, is also now a whiff of hope, its aromatic delights wafting up through your nostrils to your soul, opening it up to the possibilities of a bigger world, all the destinations that by now, after over a year of these global lockdowns, would have filled up your bucket list.
What makes PAL arroz caldo special is its simplicity. A sought-after comfort on long-haul flights, a bowl of goodbye for passengers departing from the Philippines, a bowl of hello for passengers arriving home from elsewhere in the world, it has never deviated in all these years from what we know of arroz caldo from our childhood, no matter what age we are in. Give or take a few ingredients, it is the same arroz caldo as the arroz caldo cooking in the kitchens of nipa huts or bahay na bato in the countryside, more or less the same arroz caldo available on the streets, at the town plaza, on makeshift carinderias along provincial highways.
It’s a taste of my next PAL flight to a new world, God willing.
The premium PAL arroz caldo kit is available in 750 grams, good for two to three servings. Also available now is the economy series in solo version in 300 grams or for sharing in 750 grams for two to three people. The economy series comes in sugarcane bowls. Visit FlyPALCafe on Instagram to place your orders. The arroz caldo kit will be available on GrabFood soon.