Sometimes the simplest dishes are the most satisfying. This is certainly true in the case of sinangag, a garlicky Filipino-style fried rice. Making this comfort food requires just a handful of ingredients – leftover rice, oil, garlic – and if you add an egg, it can even be a meal in itself.
Known especially as a breakfast staple, sinangag (not to be confused with sinigang, the soup!) has countless variations. Some people add meat or vegetables to the rice, and if there are eggs involved, they may be scrambled or fried. The one constant is lots of garlic, although that, too, may be chopped in different shapes or sizes or added at various stages of cooking. Pungent breath is almost guaranteed, and it's absolutely worth it.
The recipe below is based on my experience cooking with my friend Martin Cendreda, who generously shared his tips. Martin said sinangag is the first thing he learned how to cook, and now he is teaching his 4-year-old daughter Margot how to make it. On this occasion, Martin served the rice with the fried garlic and strips of egg scattered on top. Sometimes, if he has to feed the kids right away, he'll do a faster version that involves scrambling eggs, adding garlic and rice to the same pan, and mixing it all together.
There really are no hard rules when it comes to this dish, although Martin definitely recommends making it with with leftover, not freshly cooked, long-grain rice – at least a day old and even "so old that you almost don't want to eat it." You want the rice to be dried out so the grains don't clump up in the pan. Yet, even that is forgiving. The fresher-than-ideal rice I brought over for us to use was sticky, but it still turned out delicious.
With the addition of egg, sinangag makes a terrific breakfast or even a simple lunch or dinner. It's often paired with Filipino-style sausages called longganisa or tocino, a sweet cured pork. Or you can serve the rice and garlic as a side to any number of meals.
Sinangag (Filipino Garlic Fried Rice)
Butter (optional; can also use vegetable oil)
Salt and pepper
cooked long-grain rice
green onions, chopped
Heat 2 teaspoons of butter or oil in a medium skillet over moderate heat. Beat the eggs with a dash of salt and pepper. Pour them into the pan and cook until the center is set. Turn the omelet out onto a plate and set aside. When it is cool enough to handle, cut it into strips about 1/4-inch wide x 2- or 3-inches long.
Using the same pan or a separate wok, if you prefer, heat a tablespoon of oil over moderate heat and add the minced garlic. Fry the garlic, stirring constantly to prevent it from burning. When the garlic is crispy and golden, remove it from the pan (leaving the garlicky oil in the pan) and set aside.
Add 2 more tablespoons of oil to the pan or wok and stir in the rice. Make sure all the rice is coated with oil and then spread it across the pan in an even layer. Cook for a couple of minutes, then stir and repeat this process until the rice is heated through and starting to brown. If you like crispy bits, you can continue to fry it longer.
Stir 1 teaspoon of soy sauce into the rice, taste, and add more if needed. Remove from heat.
Serve the rice garnished with egg strips, scallions, and a little fried garlic. Place the remaining garlic in a bowl on the side so individuals can add more if they like.
Related: Filipino Recipe: Pork Sinigang Soup
(Images: Emily Ho)
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