Beautiful, smoky tocino with an egg on top
A bowl of cereal, a bagel with cream cheese, a toaster pop: none of these have ever given me much satisfaction. A Filipino breakfast is much more substantial than that. Growing up, breakfast was always hearty and comforting, capable of fueling either a long school day or a long nap. Lucky for me, Filipino food has been on the rise as of late, and plenty of restaurants now feature plates of smoky-sweet tocino and garlic fried rice on their menus.
Because my parents also taught me to share, here's my guide to breakfast, Filipino style.
Sinagag (garlic fried rice)
Filipino breakfast is, at its most basic, a plate of three main items:
Cooked rice that's fried in a skillet with garlic and oil
sunny-side up eggs, either placed atop the rice or the protein, perfect for soaking up that savory yolk
Almost always the centerpiece of any Filipino meal.
For the protein, options include:
pork sausage infused with garlic and anise, with a sweet finish and a bright pink tone
grilled sliced pork, also pink, with the same flavor profile as the longanisa
sliced beef marinated in vinegar or lemon juice, plus garlic, soy, and sugar (some chefs swear by 7-UP—not Sprite), then pan-fried or grilled
whole milkfish marinated in vinegar and garlic, split open and boned, then fried
yes, that Spam. The canned meat was introduced to the Philippines during the US occupation in World War II and remains a staple at breakfast, sliced and fried till the edges are crispy.
PRO TIP: Identifying these dishes requires a lesson in the Filipino portmanteau. For example, a breakfast with tapa is often called "tapsilog," where the "tap-" refers to the tapa, the "-si-" to the sinagag, and the "-log" to the itlog. Hence, a bangus breakfast is "bangsilog," tocino "tocilog," etc. etc.
Isla Pilipina | Chicago, IL
The tapa here is top notch, as is the deep-fried bangus.
Bad Saint | Washington, DC
With accolades from national magazines, most notably Bon Appetit, diners have been clamoring for these difficult-to-score tables since it opened.
Jeepney | New York, NY
Known for its efforts to bring Filipino street food balut into the mainstream, this eatery serves up air-dried tapa, smoked bangus, and tocino cured in 7-Up.
Menchie's | Amarillo, TX
You can order as much meat as you want, and have the eggs any style. Click here for a deal from Menchie's.
Lutong Pinoy Filipino Cuisine | North Miami Beach, FL
They also add to their menu adobosilog (with vinegar and soy–braised pork) and bbq-silog (with sweet-skewered pork and chicken). Click here for a deal from Lutong Pinoy.
Or you can click here to find a Filipino restaurant near you.
Photos courtesy of Isla Pilipina