I’ve mentioned this numerous times on the blog already: rice is something most Filipinos can’t seem to start the day without. Sinangag – rice fried with garlic and rock salt – is a morning staple that is eaten from Batanes to Jolo on a regular basis, usually with two fried proteins in tow. The suffix ‘silog, a contraction of sinangag at itlog (fried rice and an egg), has long been part of local breakfast culture and pairings have ranged from smoked beef (tapa for tapsilog) or sweet-cured pork (tocino for tosilog) for carnivores to smoked milkfish (tinapang bangus for bangsilog) and salt-dried rabbitfish (danggit for dangsilog)
However, some people can’t bring themselves to gorge on such robust meals so early in the day and break the fast with bread: usually the pan de sal rolls sold at the corner bakery, fresh and hot from the brick oven (pugon) and slathered with lightly salted butter or any number of sweet and savoury spreads. Swankier folk will, of course, gobble down toast made with supermarket-bought Pullman or Tasty loaves or – posher still – any selection of French, French-inspired, or American pastries, cakes, buns, and muffins that can be found at mid- and upmarket bakeries.
But for some of us, yours truly included, noodles for breakfast are a way to break the routine. Instant noodles for the most part, it’s true; but a little creativity and an inventive touch with whatever you have stocked in your fridge or pantry can go a very long way. Plus, with the variety of noodle kits available at your friendly neighbourhood supermarket, kitchen fiends like myself are spoiled for choice. From Hokkaido- or Tokyo-style ramen, to Vietnamese pho, to Nonya-style treats such as satay noodles and prawn laksa as shown above, and even to local things like instant pancit Canton or pancit palabok, you know it can never really get boring.
In my case, boiling up a pot of noodles allows me to indulge in one of my favourite foods: poached eggs. You just boil up your soup, carefully crack in a fresh egg in the last two minutes of cooking, do not – under any circumstances – stir it, carefully ladle out the egg into a bowl, pour over the soup and noodles. Et voila, breakfast is served. Having noodles for breakfast is also a keen and delicious way of using up any leftovers from the night before: just finely chop any leftover meats and sautéed vegetables; feel free to augment these with any fresh or frozen ingredients you have on hand; and you, dear reader, are well on your way to a good meal.
Leftover pasta also lends itself beautifully to breakfast bowls that can help even the most dismal midweek look a little brighter. You’ve already seen what I’ve done to leftover spaghetti and macaroni and cheese; now you can actually apply a similar approach to other pasta dishes. (Well, barring lasagne, of course…)
My current favourite is reheating pasta primavera in browned butter over high heat. It adds a nutty taste to the dish and you can make it richer by topping it with a fried egg and some grated mild cheese (a Gruyere or even mild supermarket cheese-food work wonders here); you can also add extra zing by sprinkling on some peppery shiso furikake or some coarsely diced fresh tomato.
Really: the only thing that can limit you, your noodles, and the reality of a gorgeous breakfast is whatever you have on hand and your own imagination.
(And, hey: don’t forget the coffee!)