Pinoys in Paris serve lugaw near Eiffel to support Leni 2
Lugaw was served at last week's Kakampink assembly in Paris, France. Photos courtesy of Leon Guerrero

What does Leni’s lugaw taste like in Paris?

It’s a good time for a hot meal in the City of Lights
ANCX Staff | Dec 10 2021

The winner for Filipino Dish of the Year, we believe, is not really adobo or sinigang, no matter the media mileage they got this year. It’s the lugaw. The humble dish has been on everyone’s lips even before the Vice President filed her COC for the presidency in October.

Remember when lugaw became a hot topic during the lockdown in April? A delivery rider was disallowed from delivering the hot dish past curfew hours. Lugaw, as per the misinformed lady manning a checkpoint in Bulacan, was not considered “essential” in the IATF guidelines. She was even caught on video saying, “Mabubuhay ang tao ng walang lugaw.”

By January, four months before the Philippine elections, they hope to do the Kakampink assemblies in Paris twice a month. Photo courtesy of Leon Guerrero

The incident sparked confusion as to what is essential and non-essential, and Malacañang had to issue a clarificatory statement: “Lugaw, or any food item for that matter, is considered an essential good,” then presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said. “Delivery of food items must remain unhampered 24/7. Huwag natin harangin sa checkpoints.”

Lugaw also seems to be the favorite topic of presidential aspirant Leni Robredo’s bashers. The “Leni Lugaw” tag was coined in the 2016 elections when Robredo’s supporters conducted Lugawan for Leni events to raise funds for her campaign. Her detractors, however, continue to mine the “lugaw” association to this day by turning “Leni Lugaw” into an insult that means Robredo, like lugaw, is of little substance.

The vice president has since owned the lugaw tag, with the porridge effectively embodying the humble grassroots spirit of her campaign. These days, it is served in her caravans, sorties, even when she filed her COC. She even flexed her lugaw-cooking skills on social media Star Mimiyuuh’s YouTube channel. Now everyone’s talking about the lugaw kits her volunteers have been giving out—her detractors are mocking it to high heavens, of course.

Most recently, the humble lugaw also made a splash in one of the fashion capitals of the world, birthplace of couture and stomping ground of Alain Ducasse—Paris. Lugaw was served in one of the recent rallies in support of the Leni-Kiko Pangilinan tandem in the City of Lights.

Maris Hidalgo
Maris Hidalgo, who's been based in Paris for 34 years, says she does miss the arroz caldo with native chicken cooked in their home. But there’s something else she misses more than lugaw—tuyo and sinaing na tulingan.

Maris Hidalgo, one of the supporters of 1Sambayan Team LENI-KIKO France, shares it was the attendees’ idea to serve lugaw. “They requested for it, as it’s seldom cooked here,” she says.

What does lugaw in Paris taste like? “Lugaw in Paris tastes the same as lugaw in Pinas,” says Maris, replying to our message via Facebook Messenger. “When we make lugaw, or any Filipino dish like kare-kare, adobo, even halo-halo, we make sure that they taste like the original in the Philippines,” she tells ANCX.

Just like it’s done in many lugawans and households in the Philippines, the lugaw served at the recent assembly was a combination of ordinary white rice and sticky rice. It has chicken, ginger, chives, boiled eggs, toasted garlic and dried saffron. It is seasoned with patis, salt and, instead of calamansi, the more accessible lemon. It was cooked as they remembered it. “Yung patis, we don’t mix sa lugaw. People just get if they want,” Maris says.

Now is the best time to enjoy lugaw in Paris—the weather is chilly, windy and rainy. “Temperature is 4°C in the morning, 7 or 8 degrees in the afternoon,” says Maris, who’s been based there for 34 years. She hails from Tanauan, Batangas and is the eldest among nine children. She came to Paris in 1987 so she could help her younger siblings finish college. She works as a dame de compagnie (lady companion) for the aged, mostly women.

Maris Hidalgo
Maris with fellow Kakampinks

Asked if she misses the lugaw in Pinas, she says she does miss the arroz caldo with native chicken cooked in the Hidalgo home. She also likes goto. But there’s something else she misses more than lugawtuyo and sinaing na tulingan.

There’s not a lot of lugaw served in Paris but there are Philippine stores that sell pancit, hopia, bopis etc. In their Kakampink meetings, Maris and company serve Filipino delicacies like puto, bibingka and coffee. They also serve French cakes. “People bring what they want to bring kaya in one meeting, maraming pagkain,” she says.

So far, they’ve been holding the gatherings once a month. But come January, four months before the Philippine elections, they hope to do it twice a month. “The response has been very encouraging,” Maris says. “I never knew that there are many Filipinos interested in politics. Last 2019 senatorial elections, ilan lang kami. By January, target namin is to reach 500.” They will need a lot of lugaw for that.