Homesick for Mama’s Cooking: Filipino Garlic Rice

Like other Filipino boys growing up, my brothers and I would wake up on Saturday mornings to the sound of spitting oil and the hiss of garlic, a pungent cloud of hot allium filling the house. It was instinctual: Mom was thirty seconds from adding the last night’s rice to the pan. A minute or so after that, three ravenous little boys eager for grade-A cartoon time would descend on our poor mother, noisily feasting on garlic-studded rice heaps, crowned with an olive-oil fried egg and Jufran banana ketchup, a staple of Pinoy kitchens. We’d make short order of breakfast like locusts plaguing Egypt, before holing up with our Gameboys and TV for the rest of the morning. Dishes could wait.

Growing up, rice was available at every meal. For Mom, rice reaches levels beyond comfort food. Even if pasta graced the table, she’d still make a pot, anticipating her garlicky breakfast the next morning. Rice was mixed into pancit (stir-fried rice noodles—more rice!), accompanied lumpia (rice-paper wrapped egg rolls!) and spooned over adobo chicken (no rice in the dish, probably to my mother’s great shame). I felt like such an adult when my mom taught me how to wash and prep the fluffy, starchy white stuff for dinner, like I was doing my part for providing for the family. If only growing up were so easy.

When I visit home, without fail, there’s a heaping bowl of fried garlic rice awaiting me downstairs in the morning, Mom already digging into her breakfast. These days, I don’t make a lot of rice, but when I do, I always make a bit extra for that next-day hit of nostalgia. I’ll put an egg on it, natch, and I still add some Jufran, but mixed with Korean gochujang for a kick of spice.

Filipino Garlic Rice Recipe

1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, finally minced
1 1/2 cups day old rice
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tbsp olive oil
2 medium eggs
Soy sauce, Jufran and gochujang, to serve (optional)
Parsley, for garnish

Heat the oil in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the garlic and sauté until it’s fragrant. Lower heat and add the rice, stirring until golden brown, about 5–7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Plate the garlic rice to a large bowl and wipe out pan.

In the same pan, add heat the olive oil over medium heat. Crack an egg into a bowl, ensuring there are no shells. Slide the eggs into the oil, cooking until the edges crisp and brown, and the center white sets, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

To serve, heap rice onto 2 plates and top each with an egg. I serve the dish with a quick mix of equal parts sweet Jufran banana ketchup and spicy Korean gochujang, with a splash of soy sauce to thin it out. Good ol’ Heinz works too. Serves 2.

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