A Filipino’s love affair with rice

One true fact amongst Filipino households is that rice is always part of a meal. Kanin or rice is literally eaten in the morning, noon and night with a good chance of having it in-between too. It is the staple that every Filipino finds comfort in.

Filipino-beloved kanin or steamed jasmine rice
Filipino-beloved kanin or steamed jasmine rice

A typical Filipino meal often starts with steamed plain rice that is paired with everything and anything, be it stews, grilled food or fried food. Rice drizzled with soy sauce is already a meal I would stop for. After all these years here in Toronto, I still have hinon-onan (fish cooked in vinegar and garlic) with rice to start my day. I have tried going North American way of a cereal and milk but I seem to just be able to sustain it for a few days. The craving for Filipino breakfast would set in really fast.

There is a bewildering variety of rice in Toronto. I find that the Milagrosa 5-star jasmine rice is the one most similar to what I grew up with. This is most easy to find as most groceries in Toronto have it.

If you find yourself a chance to be in a Filipino kitchen and see someone cook rice without the help of a rice cooker, I would bet that you would find them washing the grains with water and just putting enough water to just reach an inch from the tip of the middle finger. We used to have a thick pot we call kaldero to cook rice in and that is how I was taught to cook it back in Manila.

We like the rice fluffy and a little bit sticky. I remember pandan leaves are often thrown in to scent the rice. Just the smell of perfumed jasmine rice can make my tummy growl. Some people would say leave the pot untouched while cooking and some say stir it once to avoid burning the bottom (I must admit I find pleasure in eating tutong or the burnt crusty bottom). With the advent of rice cookers, this is now obviously a non-issue.

Now if you find yourself some left-over rice, it is best consumed the following day for breakfast as garlic fried rice. I find this the yummiest for breakfast paired with eggs over-easy and tocino (marinated sweet pork) or tocilog. I will eventually talk about tocino in another post. Right now, do try this simple garlic rice and have a breakfast like we Filipinos do.

Garlic Rice
2 tbsp canola oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 – 4 cups of steamed rice
salt and pepper to taste

Heat left-over rice in microwave for 1 – 2 minutes covered with partially wet paper towel.  Microwaving with wet paper towel will revive the rice, giving it steam and moisture to make it fluffy once again. Set aside. Heat skillet and add oil. Place the burner to medium heat and sauté garlic. Be careful not to burn minced garlic. Add warmed leftover rice and mix. Add salt and pepper to taste.