Garlic Fried Rice for Breakfast?
It may sound like a pungent way to get your day started, but making Sinangag in the morning is a brilliant way to transform boring leftover rice into a garlicky flavor-bomb that will awaken your senses (just remember to use mouthwash before work). 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:
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.
Traditionally Sinangag is made with a neutral flavor oil, but I saw this as an opportunity to inject a bit more flavor into the rice. 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 animal fats impart more flavor, they also tend to make the rice heavier than I wanted. That’s why I settled on a fruity olive oil. It absorbs and redistributes the garlic flavor while lending a clean richness to the rice.
While you can add other things like flaked Tuyo 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 Sinangag
The first thing you need to do is infuse the oil with flavor by sauteing the garlic in the oil. This not only flavors the oil, but the high heat also browns the garlic, enhancing its flavor.
While opinions on this may vary, I like to fry the garlic until it’s fully caramelized and 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’ll want to 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 a bit of the crisped garlic to use as a garnish for the Sinangag. 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.
cooked long grain rice (about 2 cups)
garlic (3 large cloves, minced)
white pepper (to taste)
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 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 1/4 of the garlic from the pan, leaving the oil behind.
Add the rice and stir to coat evenly with the oil and garlic.
Turn up the heat and 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.