When I was a little kid, I remember feeling enthralled when my mama would make fried rice; sometimes for dinner, but often for breakfast when we had a family sleepover.
I also remember going to Chinese restaurants and feeling kind of cheesy about getting fried rice. I enjoyed it, of course, but why would we go to a restaurant to eat leftovers?
Remember, in the ancient days of yore, fried rice was a way to heat up your leftover rice. Then came the microwave, which made it possible to heat up leftover rice and restore it to it’s original fresh-steamèdness, and fried rice was relegated to special leftover occasions.
Sinangag is the Filipino version; pronounce it [si-na-ŋág]. I’ve always found the best recipes are the simplest ones, and this one is simple and bullet-proof.
If you’re making sinangag for breakfast, for example for tapsilog (or any other -silog for that matter), it should be garlicky. When you make it for dinner you can leave out the garlic, as to provide a more neutral counterpoint for your adobo, which should be hella garlicky.
Back in the old days, I would dice up some garlic, flash-fry it until it just turned golden; then take it out of the pan. In that same oil. Once the rice is all fried, I’d used the flash-fried garlic as a topping.
Then one day mama taught me a new way: smash the garlic cloves but leave them whole. Brown them a little and then leave them in when you add the rice… and cook the rice until it’s hot. That way the garlic roasts as it’s suspended within the rice, and if you do it right you’ll get that roasted garlic flavor throughout.
Here are some hints for your sinangag:
- I like using coarse salt, especially sea salt. I know some people who swear by Johnny’s seasoning salt, which gives their sinangag a slight orange tinge.
- If you’re using leftover calrose rice, you might want to wash your hands and use one wet hand to declump the rice before throwing it into the hot wok.
- Leftover rice from Chinese restaurants is great for frying; it’s less sticky. That’s the only way I like that Chinese restaurant rice actually, I don’t really like it steamed.
- Cook your sinangag in a screaming hot wok, and be sure to let the rice sear a little bit… even burn. When it starts to smell toasty, give it a little toss and mix around, so that every bite you take gets a little crunch. This toasty technique we call “galud” in Pangasinan and “tutong” in Tagalog.
- Smash some garlic cloves and remove the peel; drop into a wok with smoking-hot oil.
- Flash-brown the garlic cloves on both sides and then immediately drop in some rice.
- Season with salt and cracked pepper.
- Stir-fry until everything is mixed. Try to keep garlic from touching the wok.
- Let the rice sit and toast for a bit, so it develops a galud.
- Mix the galud into the rest and serve.