Now let’s talk about breakfast or what we Pinoys call agahan or almusal. There are a lot of dishes I could highlight and I will start with one dish. We tend to like the start to our mornings with something hearty and filling, more salty than sweet. One of my most favourite is what we call Tortang Talong or simply eggplant omelette. It’s pretty simple really, just three ingredients and paired with fresh steamed rice, I am all set to start my day.
The key to a good tortang talong is to be able to make the eggplant soft before adding the egg. The original way of softening the eggplant was to roast it over open fire. We normally place the whole eggplant on top of the heating element and let the flames scorch through the skin, turning it gradually to let the flames touch every part and cook it through. It takes a lot of patience and attention to get it done right. But it is very well worth the detail to make a good tortang talong.
My present living conditions present a different problem though as I have a ceramic topped range and I reinvented the recipe to match my condo living. I tried different ways, from placing it in the oven to boiling the eggplant in water to microwaving. I find the best way is microwaving. Just remember to score the eggplant with a fork in ample areas to release the moisture when using the oven or the microwave. That buildup of moisture trying to escape while roasting/cooking the eggplant can give you a magnificent boom if you forget to poke holes on the eggplant.
Do try this very simple dish. It is a comfort food I love and I hope you would start up your day on a positive note like mine.
—— Tortang Talong
2 Chinese long and thin eggplants
2 eggs, large
2 tbsp cooking oil for frying
soy sauce for dipping, preferably Marca Pina or Silver Swan
1. Score the eggplant with a fork, making holes to release steam while it cooks
2. Soften the Chinese eggplant (stem end intact) for about 2 minutes in a microwave for every eggplant. If using oven, preheat at 500 degrees F for about 20 minutes before roasting the scored Chinese eggplants for another 30 minutes. Set aside to cool.
3. When eggplants are cooled down to room temperature, peel the skin off gently, keeping the stem intact.
4. Break two eggs into a shallow bowl and beat eggs until frothy.
5. Heat a frying fan with the cooking oil for frying.
5. Place the softened and peeled eggplant on the bowl with the beaten egg and fan out the eggplant to thin it out and transfer eggplant to hot frying pan.
6. Fry until golden brown.
7. Serve warm with steamed jasmine rice. Use soy sauce for dipping.
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.
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.
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.