The versatile rice

Rice is an indispensable part of Filipino cuisine. A Filipino meal is incomplete without rice. Why has it become a staple as it is now?

My theory is that rice is a versatile food. Heck, just add anything to eat and it is already eatable. Let me count the things you can do with it. We’ll concentrate on leftover rice, as most bachelors are prone to have leftovers (if they could cook at all; well, they could buy cooked rice at the corner carinderia).

Of course, there’s the stir-fry rice, which most of us eat in the mornings. It is the best way to deal with leftover rice from last night. My mom cooks rice with the mornings in mind – she makes sure there is enough leftover to stir fry the next morning.

Stir-fry rice is in itself a versatile meal. So versatile in fact that it led to a cottage industry – those tapsilog place of yore. Anyway, in its simplest form (or the base form), you have rice stir fried in oil, with garlic and salt. You will want to have at least a fried egg or hotdog to go with it. Or, you can experiment and add stuff to it; heck, you can make a complete meal of out the base form by just adding food stuff. One simple way of doing this is adding what’s on the ref. My dad usually adds hotdogs, scrambled eggs, and ham. First he fries the chopped hotdogs, then the scrambled egg (which is chopped into cubes later), and the ham (chopped into cubes also). Then he proceeds to the rice: garlic first in the wok, then the rice, some stirring, salt, more stirring, the hotdogs-egg-ham, some more stirring, and voila.

That is actually a variation of the so-called yang chow fried rice. You can make a variation out of it by adding more ingredients to it, like peas, corned beef, onions, longanisa, tapa, leftover fried pork chop, anything. Instead of using cooking oil, you can use butter or margarine. My uncle used to fry rice using Star margarine, obviously inspired by that Star Rice commercial of theirs.

If you have leftover paksiw na pata, here’s a suggestion: bring it to a simmer until it dries. Get the meat and the fat out of the bones, cut them into strips or cubes, then add it to your fried rice. Yummy. You can also do this with leftover adobo.

I used to add liquid seasoning or oyster sauce while frying rice, but this led to the rice sticking to the pan. So what you should do is to add this later, when you have turned off the stove.

Enough of fried rice and let’s proceed to what I call poor man’s rice. There are several variations to this, but there are two that I had already tried. One is adding a little cooking oil and soy sauce to the rice, then mixed thoroughly. That in itself is a variation of rice and salt that poor people eat in very hard times. (It is good to try it to get a sense of how poor people subsist on minimum wage.) There’s my kuya’s favorite: adding condensed milk to rice. Add a generous amount, and then mix. Meal and dessert all in one!

If you have cooked longanisa or tocino, you can do what my other brother does: he mashes rice into the pan where longanisa or tocino was cooked. Sweet and salty and oily, but he likes it.

That’s just for starters. There’s a lot of things you can do with rice. Do you have any quick-and-easy rice recipe? Share them in the comments.

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