Although I’ve been happily eating Filipino food at church suppers for years, I’d never tried to cook any of it myself until this week. So when the assignment came up, I naturally wanted to start with the simplest dish I could find (not to mention that I was limited to four or fewer ingredients). What could be simpler than fried rice? Even for someone like me who’d never made it before.
This is probably the point to say that fried rice should be made with rice that has not just been cooked, but has had plenty of time to cool down and dry out. Otherwise, it may steam instead of frying.
Okay, on to fried rice as it’s made in the Philippines. As it is everywhere in Asia, rice is one of the staples in that country. So it’s not surprising that people have come up with ways to use leftover rice, just as French toast uses up stale bread and hash browns can be made from cold baked potatoes.
What was a little surprising was that they consider fried rice a breakfast dish — garlic fried rice, called sinangag. The first sinangag recipe I found called for four cups of rice and nine cloves of garlic. I thought that might be excessive for Western tastes, at least first thing in the morning, even though eggs are supposed to be added, which makes it more breakfast-like.
Also, garlic is hard to get just right in stovetop cooking — if you don’t stop when it’s literally golden, you end up with either raw garlic or burned garlic, neither of which anyone wants to eat. I decided to play it safe with roasted garlic; all I had to do was cut a head in half, butter the cut edges, wrap it in foil, and leave it for an hour in the oven I had going anyway.
I also decided to leave out the egg, not caring for eggs cooked this way and seeing this as a dinnertime side dish rather than breakfast. But if you’d like to, just beat up one egg and pour it in while you’re cooking the second side of the rice.
- 1 cup cooked rice, cold
- 3 or 4 cloves roasted garlic, chopped into two or more pieces each
- Oil for frying
- Heat the oil in a small frying pan over medium high heat till sizzling but not smoking.
- Carefully add the rice.
- Press down with a spatula.
- Cook for at least five minutes, checking the underside occasionally.
- When a golden brown crust forms, carefully turn the rice over (one spatula full at a time — it will not stick together in a cake).
- Scatter the garlic pieces over the rice.
- Cook till the remaining side is also golden brown.