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.
Here’s the procedure:
- 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.
Filipinos are not the only people to eat galud; all the Asian countries do it. For tahdig
, the toasted part is the star of the show.
Amber and I used to order bibimbap
at a Korean place on Donghu Lu in Shanghai. The only bibimbap they served was dolsot, i.e., brought to your table in a screaming hot stone pot. As soon as they put it on the table, they’d mix it for you, ruining your chance at eating galud and scrambling the fresh cracked egg. The staff looked at us like we were idiots when Amber told them DON’T MIX IT we’ll do it ourselves. There was no explaining it too them, as they don’t give a crap, they don’t know Korean food, and they just do as they’re told. But waiting for the rice to toast not only gave us the toasty, crispy galud texture we were looking for, but also allowed the fresh cracked egg to form a thick sauce… the same way it does in your spaghetti carbonara.
This reminds me, Amber and I used to ask for more kimchi, and they’d charge us for it. Amber told them once, in Korea, they refill your banchan for free. The pile of crap waiter said, “We are not in Korea.” And under my breath I said in English, I wish we were in Korea, instead of this stingy pile of crap costume restaurant.” Their kimchi wasn’t great anyway, too much SUGAR.
I digress; let’s get back to fried rice. I don’t make a lot of bibimbap at home, but I do make kimchi fried rice
. And I always make sure that there is galud.
Chinese people don’t seem to be impressed by galud; there’s never been any galud in the 蛋炒饭 egg fried rice I used to order in Shanghai, or the vegetron fried rice
you can get at Chinese restaurants…
Mexicans as a culture do not seem to have any affection for galud either. I was telling Lili once about the joys of galud; she claimed to have no knowledge and looked at me like I was an idiot for eating burnt rice. Later that week she had the same conversation with a Cuban friend, who showed her a vendor that sold super hard, crunchy galud; sheets of it, bundled into plastic baggies. Lili bought me one! It was way too hard, and I was worried I’d chip my teeth on it… but I ate the whole baggie.