“It’s just the two of us,” I told him.

Next to me, Stanford stood stumped. Puzzled at what I meant. He tilted his head charmingly and gave me the look — the “I-don’t-know-what-you’re-talking-about-but-that-carrot-you’re-holding-looks-pretty-darn-tasty” look. The chap loves his carrots. Stanford’s a smart snacker that way. I wish I could say the same about myself. I hurled the carrot toward him, which he caught deftly with his mouth. It was gone in a snap.

The house always feels empty when Dennis is away. The kitchen at dinnertime feels particularly hollow. No one noses around. No one gives me a hand. No one pays me a compliment. No one does my dishes, my pots and pans. Dennis and I have an unwritten rule: when one cooks the other one cleans. I agreed to the arrangement even though it’s skewed to my disadvantage. My partner uses every mixing bowl, every measuring cup, every measuring spoon when he prepares dinner. He literally turns the entire kitchen upside down when he cooks and I am left with tidying everything up. It’s far from an equitable distribution of labor, isn’t it? He compensates for his cooking, anyway, so all is good and fair.

I picked out another carrot from the crisper, peeled it, and cut it into strips as thin as matchsticks. I piled them in a stack on a plate along with sweet jicama and sour green mango cut in the same way. Garlic crushed in my mortar and pestle and a small yellow onion chopped into tiny pieces made my mise en place complete.

I don’t mind cooking in solitude at home. I cannot say I enjoy eating alone. I cannot say the opposite either. Good food and good wine are best enjoyed in the company of family and friends but solitary dinners can be pleasurable. “It is the privilege of loneliness,” Virginia Woolf writes in Mrs. Dalloway. “In privacy one may do as one chooses.” Fried rice with fried eggs is my meal of choice. My one-skillet meal for one. It can be as simple as eggs and day-old rice fried with garlic in a hot skillet or as elaborate as — oh well, eggs and day-old rice fried with garlic in a hot skillet — but dressed with pungent bagoong [bah-goh-ohng]! The kind that’s salty but a little sweet. The kind that makes the entire house reek!

A glass of cheap but tasty red accompanied my bowl of bagoong fried rice on that warm spring night. Sutherland and Pavarotti serenaded me and my dinner companion.

“It’s just you and me,” I told him. Stanford tapped my leg with his cold nose then gave me the look. “Aren’t you going to share?” I thought I heard him say.


Bagoong Fried Rice Recipe, makes four servings

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small onion, chopped
3 cups leftover cooked rice at room temperature (1 cup uncooked gives roughly 3 cups cooked rice)
1/4 cup bagoong alamang, Kamayan or Barrio Fiesta brand
sea salt to taste
1 small green mango, julienned, about 1/4 cup
1 small jicama, julienned, about 1/4 cup
1 medium carrot, julienned, about 1/4 cup
2 medium tomatoes, coarsely chopped
4 eggs, fried

Heat oil in a wok or large heavy skillet over high heat. Add garlic and stir fry until it starts to brown. Add onions and stir fry until soft and fragrant. Add bagoong — shrimp preserved in brine typically used as sawsawan — and stir fry for a minute. Mash the rice gently with clean hands, breaking apart clumps of rice. Pour rice into the hot wok and stir well, again breaking apart clumps of rice with a spatula. Stir until well combined. Stir fry until grains are separated and dressed in bagoong. Season with salt to taste.

Divide into four bowls. Garnish with mango, jicama, and carrots, and tomatoes. Serve with fried eggs.

For a more substantial fried rice, add strips of sweet pork tocino or longganisa.


Bagoong Fried Rice

  • http://vintagezest.blogspot.com/ Diane @ Vintage Zest

    The opinions on bagoong are as strong as its aroma! While my older family members love it, the younger generation is split 50/50. I recently made a Korean pickled radish (moo), and I had to make sure that I was eating it when no one else was around!

    On a side note, I love the dish that you use for your dinner! And of course, I spy a fork and spoon. Never a knife!

  • P. Sebastian

    @Jun: thank you so much for highlighting Filipino fried rice with bagoong. There is just something about the combination of fried rice, salty bagoong and garlic, topped with tomatoes and sweet mangoes (i prefer mine a little firmer yellow). I’ve been a silent subscriber of your blog, content on reading everything you do, savoring the dishes you feature in my mind as it brings back memories. Who knew it would be take only a humble bagoong fried rice dish to get me to finally comment on your blog?

  • Catherine

    Bagoong is absolutely one of my favorites! I never thought to have it with fried rice, what a wonderfully simple tasty recipe. Too bad it’s pretty much banned in my household! The smell alone has my husband and boys running…

  • Anonymous

    Bagoong cooked is always a no no in my house too. In my parent’s house, it can be cooked and all our non-Filipino family members(in-laws) are often seen excusing themselves to run errands rather than taste or smell it. My partner sees me eat it but always cold as I add it to my kare-kare or sinigang. But to be honest, I would put bagoong on anything if I can. The obvious one is green mango that is sour but I always add it to my fried talong like I do with kare-kare.
    As always you bring back memories and yes, company is better but sometimes indulging in something freely without looks or comments about the food is also best.

  • gemma byrne

    I live in a tiny Brooklyn apartment and cooking bagoong and dried fish was simply out of the question till I discovered 100% pure beeswax candles. They are simply the best in getting rid of odors and I always have a ready supply whenever a dish such as this bagoong fried rice calls for it.

    I’ve never tried bagoong fried rice although I’ve spotted it on the menus of Philippine restaurants. It just seemed blah to me. But the garnishings you used made it quite appealing enough to convince me to give this dish a try.

  • http://blog.junbelen.com/ Jun Belen

    Thank you so much for writing and for following the blog! I am so thrilled to hear from you. For bagoong fried rice, I like my mangoes manibalang — almost ripe. Firm not soft like ripe mangoes. Sweet and sour at the same time. Try it with jicama — singkamas. I like the crunch and subtle sweetness it adds to the dish. And of course singkamas + bagoong is a great combination!

  • natzsm

    Back in the 80′s, when I was still in college and we have depleted our allowance, my friends and I would take whatever leftover adobo or binagoongan we had from previous meals and saute it with a large pot of leftover rice. You need so little meat to be able to feed a crowd and sometimes we made it without any meat at all and simply added scrambled eggs just to add some protein or as a garnish.

    Later on (in 2000 if I am not mistaken), during a reunion in a Thai Restaurant, we were surprised that there was such a thing as Bagoong Rice. We all laughed as memories of our early college years of having to pinch pennies came flooding back and that bagoong rice was more of a necessity than a choice.

    Up to today, bagoong rice remains to be a breakfast staple if there is any leftover binagoongan. Often times, I even cook binagoongan just to have an excuse to make the rice.

  • http://saberkite.com saberkite

    I am a big fan of bagoong, particularly the dark, really smelly liquid one (I forgot what it’s called by my grandmother refers to it as bagoong isda). It adds a really nice flavor to my green mangoes. I often mix it with rice and eat as is. Yum.
    I have tried the Thai version of bagoong fried rice, but I guess I’m pretty biased for the kind that we have. :D

  • http://Www.lipstickandchopsticks.tumblr.com/ Cai

    Hi Jun! Next time try using ginataang bagoong/ alamang, soooooo sarap! :)

  • http://blog.junbelen.com/ Jun Belen

    Yes — I love bagoong with coconut milk! My mom makes ginataang langka with bagoong. So good!

  • http://blog.junbelen.com/ Jun Belen

    Natz, thank you for sharing the story. Leftover binagoongan plus leftover rice make the best breakfast the morning after.

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