Pinoy Plates of Plenty: Battle Silog
How Corazon got her Manila Groove back... with longsilog, of course.
Certain cultures are just known for breakfast. Most people have heard of the full English (or full Scottish or full Irish) breakfast, and of course we Americans are known for stuffing ourselves at the start of the day.
Less known, perhaps, is the Filipino concept of silog. A portmanteau of sinangag (fried rice) and itlog (eggs), Filipino breakfast is a huge portion of garlic rice, two fried eggs and your choice of meat, served with fresh red tomatoes and coconut vinegar.
What meat you add determines how you order: tapsilog (the original silog) contains tapa, a sweet cured beef; tosilog contains tocino, the same sweet cure applied to pork; tuyosilog contains tuyo, dried small fish. There are as many combinations as there are meats.
Filipinos, however, have one of the best sausages on the planet, a fatty, sweet pork sausage called longganisa (properly longganisa hamonado), and when you pair two or three of these fat, nearly spherical rolls with rice and eggs, you get the king of Filipino breakfasts, longsilog.
The problem is finding it. For whatever reason, as I made my way around looking for silogs, I came across the only rude Filipinos I've ever met, all behind the counter at central Orange County's various turo-turo (steam tray) restaurants. I did, eventually, find two places two compare.
D'Nu Eggrolls is a tiny box in a mini-mall on West Chapman in Orange, in that forgotten stretch between Main Street and the 57. Longsilog is $3.99 here; the plate contains three longganisang, an absolutely enormous plate of garlic fried rice and two fried-to-order eggs, plus sliced Roma tomatoes. The coconut vinegar is store-brand but has dried chiles and ginger sunk in the bottom of the bottle.
The eggs were excellent; creamy and runny yolks, but still made with what Spanish speakers call puntillas, crispy bits around the edge. The longganisa was odd; the meat was finely ground, but the sheath had come loose and was unbelievably sticky. The loser, however, was the rice; the garlic had burned in the pan and was bitter.
Manila Groove is a larger place tucked away in the corner of the Tustin plaza containing Cream Pan and OC's only kosher market. Longsilog is $5.99 here, but comes with sour-leaf soup (excellent and refreshing even on a 100°F day) and a can of soda.
Longsilog here comes with three longganisang as well, and while the meat was not as finely ground, the texture was surprisingly good; the rice was dry but had pieces of pork strewn throughout it. The eggs were pre-made, however; one was cooked to hard yolks and the other was properly runny. They had obviously had the puntillas cut off, which is a shame. The vinegar was homemade and in little cruets on each table.
While the D'Nu Eggrolls silog was a better deal, there was a wider variety at Manila Groove and the sin of overcooked egg was less than the sin of bitter rice. This is a great breakfast or brunch; it's a shame that so many shopkeepers decided to shout at me about it instead of being nice. Kudos to both D'Nu and Manila Groove for having customer service that makes a non-Pinoy feel welcome.
Manila Groove, 678 El Camino Real, Tustin; 714-505-3905; www.manilagroove.com.
D'Nu Eggrolls, 1710 W. Chapman, Orange; 714-634-8816; no website.
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