Filipino Garlic Fried Rice
It may sound like a pungent way to get your day started, but Sinangag (a.k.a. Garlic Rice) is a brilliant way to transform boring leftover rice into a garlicky flavor-bomb that will awaken your senses. Served alongside a fried egg with some Tocino, Tapa, or Longanisa, it’s a key part of breakfast in the Philippines.
Like a simple Italian pasta, this Filipino fried rice consists of just three basic ingredients (five if you count salt and pepper), and yet every cook seems to have their own way of making it. Using a different fat, getting the garlic more or less brown, using different rice, and adding other seasonings are all ways to make it your own. Like most simple dishes, the trick to making a delicious Sinangag is all in the ingredients and technique, so here’s how I make mine.
Why this Garlic Rice Recipe Works
- The garlic is fried until crisp, which triggers both caramelization and the Maillard reaction. This not only infuses the oil with tons of garlic flavor (which then gets absorbed by the rice), it also creates tons of new flavor compounds which is why this dish tastes so good, despite having so few ingredients.
- Using day-old rice allows the starches in the rice to retrograde. This is just a fancy way of saying that the starches return their original structure, which makes the rice firm and dry. This makes it a lot easier to coat each grain of rice with the garlic-flavored oil without mashing up the grains of rice, which makes the finished fried rice nice and fluffy.
- Saving half of the crisped garlic to use as a garnish not only allows you to adjust the amount of garlic to taste, it also gives you a crispy topping that adds a wonderful textural element to the rice.
Ingredients for Filipino Garlic Rice
- Rice – Any long-grain rice will work here. Long-grain rice contains more Amylose than Amylopectin, which keeps the individual grains of rice from sticking together. Short-grain rice, on the other hand, contains more Amylopectin than Amylose, which makes the rice sticky, good for sushi, but not so much for garlic fried rice. My recommendation is Sinandomeng, but Jasmine or a high-grade Basmati will work as well. While you can make Sinangag from freshly cooked rice, I recommend using day-old rice that’s spent the night in the fridge. The reason for this is that the Amylose in the rice gets hard when chilled, preventing the rice from breaking or getting mashed as you fry it. As it heats up it will soften again, so by the time the rice is done, it has a perfect fluffy texture.
- Garlic – There’s no need to get fancy with your garlic, but I recommend using fresh garlic and chopping it yourself as the pre-chopped kind includes preservatives that can give the garlic an off-flavor. The other key is to use ton of garlic. Because it’s fried until crisp, the Maillard reaction mellows out the more pungent notes, so you can really go to town with the garlic without making it overwhelming.
- Fat – Traditionally Sinangag is made with vegetable oil or coconut oil. For my version of garlic fried rice, I wanted the garlicky goodness to permeate each grain of rice, and yet I didn’t want it greasy or heavy. While butter and healthy saturated fats (like coconut oil) impart more flavor, they also tend to make the rice heavier than I wanted. That’s why I settled on fruity olive oil. It absorbs and redistributes the garlic flavor while lending a clean richness to the rice.
- Seasonings – While you can add other things like flaked Tuyo, or soy sauce to the rice, Sinangag is more of a side to be served with other food than a stand-alone dish. That’s why I like to keep it simple. Aside from an ample dose of garlic, I add just a bit of salt to bring forth the umami from the caramelized garlic and a bit of white pepper for a hint of spice.
How to make Garlic Rice (Sinangag)
The first thing you want to do is crumble the rice with your hands. This makes it much easier to stir-fry, and it allows the garlicky oil to coat each grain of rice.
Next, you want to fry the garlic over medium-high heat until the garlic is browned and crisp. This not only infuses the oil with flavor, but it also enhances the taste of the garlic. Be careful your heat isn’t up to high, or your garlic will burn before it is fully crisp. Once all the water in the garlic has evaporated, it will start to take on color very quickly, so you have to be careful not to let it burn. To minimize the chances of this happening, you can turn the heat down when the sizzling starts to slow. Since garlic only sizzles when it still contains moisture, you’ll know it’s crisp when the oil isn’t bubbling very much anymore.
The garlic is going to smell amazing at this point, and you may be tempted to add the rice and be done with it, but I like to reserve half of the crisped garlic to use as a garnish for the fried rice. Because the rice releases some moisture as it fries, the garlic in the pan will get soft. By topping the finished dish with the reserved garlic, you’re able to enjoy its crisp texture along with the tender pillowy fried rice.
Now you can add the crumbled rice in and toss it together with the remaining garlic and oil. The goal here is to warm up the rice while coating each grain of rice with the flavorful oil.
Season the rice with salt and pepper, and when the rice has warmed through and is nice and fluffy, you can serve it garnished with the crisp garlic you set aside and some scallions.
Other Filipino Recipes
- 300 grams cooked long grain rice (about 2 cups)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 20 grams garlic (3 large cloves, minced)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
- Use your hands to break up any clumps of rice.
In a large frying pan, add the olive oil and garlic and heat over medium-high heat, stirring regularly to ensure even browning. Fry the garlic until most of the sizzling subsides and the garlic is a golden brown color.
Remove half of the garlic from the pan, leaving the oil behind.
Add the rice and toss to coat evenly with the oil and garlic.
Stir-fry the rice until it's heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve the Sinangag hot and garnish with the reserved garlic. You can also top with some scallions for color.