Project 30: Why breakfast is the most important meal of the day

My mama said: Breakfast is IMPORTANT." (image from

My mama told me that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It was the day’s pacesetter, filling up the body with it’s much needed energy to get through the challenges ahead. She made sure that we never left the house without a good hearty plate of breakfast. My mama trained us well that I grew up to be a certified breakfast lover.

But as I started the working life at 22 years of age, sadly, breakfast somehow slipped out of my daily routine. I wake up, take a shower, dress up and rush to the office with no breakfast every single day. It’s a shame, but how can someone shake off a 22-year old habit? Sadly, it is possible. The same way it is easy to shake off my heritage here in Dubai…

Spending all my life, practically 30-years of it, in the Philippines and being around Filipinos every single second of the day, I find myself overwhelmed with the multitude of races here. You have the Arabs: Emiratis, Egyptians, Bahrainians, Lebanese, Jordanians, Syrians and more (sorry if I missed out on any specific race. Pardon my geography and history knowledge); Europeans: British, French, Irish, German, Scottish, Italians, Spanish, Russians, and more, South Asians: Indians and Pakistanis, East Asians: Chinese, Japanese and Koreans, Southeast Asians: Indonesians, Malaysians, Vietnamese, Thais, Singaporeans, and, of course, Filipinos. It is quite amazing that despite the distance of the UAE from the Philippines, Filipinos are estimated 500,000 strong in this 8.9Million population. (Anybody care to share more accurate and up-to-date figures?) So there are literally Filipinos in every corner.

Am I proud? Really proud?!? (image from

Though most Filipinos (I would like to think) are here for respectable work to help support their families back home, there are other Filipinos who manage to earn our nationality quite a reputation. Not a good one at that. I’ve heard countless shameful stories that I wished I wasn’t a Filipino in this country. I would often hear that warm Filipino greeting: “Kabayan (compatriot)!”, but sometimes I cannot help but wish I could just disappear into thin air with shame. This sentiment is not unique because there are other Filipinos who have denied being Filipino (more privileged ones who possess a foreign passport) and other Filipinos who wish they could change their passports to another more globally respected nationality. I must admit that I also share this sentiment. I just wish that I could shed off my being Filipino and take on a new nationality instead. I can take on this discussion on a separate thread if you please.

But, at the end of the day, being Filipino is something I can never deny. Though I am often mistaken as Chinese or sometimes even Japanese by some people here in Dubai, I am Filipino in heritage: born to Filipino parents, baptized with a Filipino name, bred in the Philippines and possess a Philippine passport. My Filipino-ness runs through my very veins in every fibre of my being. And this opportunity to live in Dubai is a chance to realize the importance of my Filipino heritage, to first and foremost, accept it. I can’t say that I am proud if I can’t accept it right?

Being Pinoy: Major, major problem? (image from

Despite the many criticisms about our country’s economy, political system and culture, the Philippines is still my beloved home and there are a good sprinkle of reasons to be proud of our country.

Like the Filipino breakfast that made it to the list of the world’s best breakfasts. An important meal that I surely will never, ever forget. The Filipino breakfast is surely a great way to wake up to a now cooler Dubai winter morning…Well, to be honest, it is a damn great way to wake up to anywhere in the world for a Filipino like me.

Let’s start off with the starches.

Sinangag (Garlic Fried Rice) - image from

Filipino breakfast isn’t complete without a cup of Sinangag (Garlic Fried Rice). I love the way my mama makes Sinangag (Well, who doesn’t love her mother’s cooking anyway?!?) It is day or two old rice tossed in a pan with oil and garlic. The mom magic behind this is when she smushes the rice with a sprinkle of sea salt onto the hot pan creating a crispy paella like crust. The rice soaks up all the garlicky flavors, a perfect pungent smell to wake your senses up in everyday lazy mornings.

Check out those pandesal! (image from

Though we are not a bread eating race (A Filipino meal is not considered a meal if without rice.), we do enjoy our mornings with pandesal (Filipino bread roll). My mom buys our pandesal stash at our favorite neighborhood bakery, then throws it into the oven toaster to get a nice toasty crunch on the top. Break it in half to inhale the buttery and yeasty steam, while the crumbs tumble down onto your lap. Traditionally, the pandesal is dunked into a cup of hot coffee. But I prefer mine stuffed with any of the following: butter (that melts like liquid gold as it hits the hot pandesal) or quesong puti (Filipino white cheese). I heard that there are bakeries that sell pandesal in Dubai. Care to share where exactly? I must get my pandesal fix some time soon.

Gooey Champorado. YUM! (image from

Last of the starches, but definitely not the least, is the chocolatey champorado (choclate rice porridge). I kid you not. Read my words: Chocolate rice porridge. Champorado is a warm bowl of sweet chocolate love, especially cozy during extra cool tropical mornings in the rainy season or in the latter -ber months. I love mine with a zing of saltiness topped with spicy tuyo (dried salted herring) or beef tapa (cured beef).

Since I already ratted off some of the breakfast meats, let’s begin the meaty Filipino breakfast journey. Let us tackle the land lubbers first.

Pork in Tube form! Thanks Ivan for compiling SOME of the longganisas of the PH (image from

The tasty meat-in-tube-form featured in the World’s Best Breakfasts is the longganisa (Filipino sausage). This is my ultimate favorite Filipino breakfast meat EVER. Fatty ground pork seasoned with loads of garlic and other secret spices (which vary from province to province) stuffed in pork intestine casing, fried crispy then dipped in vinegar (which also varies from province to province! I love it with one or two crushed red chilies for added kick!). There are sweeter variants of the longganisa, but my favorite longganisa variants are the garlicky ones from the provinces of Lucban, Quezon, Vigan, Ilocos Sur, Alaminos, Pangasinan, Baguio, Mountain Province and Imus, Cavite.

Tapsilog = tapa + sinangag + ilog! (image from

Next we have, the beef tapa (cured beef): tenderloin beef tips marinated in soy sauce, loads of garlic (Again! I gotta have that!), a sprinkle of sugar, a pinch of salt and pepper, Tapa is a match made in heaven with a cup of sinangag and an overeasy egg, a heavenly breakfast combination we call silogs (sinangag + itlog / egg). So Tapa + Sinangag + Itlog = Tapsilog. Ya dig the food math here? So longganisa + Sinangag + Itlog = Longsilog. Cool right?

Tosilog = tocino + sinangag + itlog! (image from

Last of the land lubbing yummies is the Pork Tocino (sweet cured pork). We skip the garlic this time around. The fatty pork (Please do not remove any of the fat. I beg you.) is cured in sugar, salt, saltpeter, and achuete (annatto seeds) for color, then panfried. I prefer mine more caramelized, slightly burnt (especially the fatty ends) with sinangag and sunny side up egg. Let’s do the Filipino breakfast math again: Tocino + Sinangag + Itlog = Tosilog!

Tuyo goodness in a smell! (image from

Now we leave land and take a dive into the sea. I’m not much of a seafood person, but I do love spicy tuyo (salted dried herring) fillets for breakfast. Traditionally, we fry the whole tuyo, sending that unique Pinoy aroma which fills the entire neighborhood. Consider yourself warned because fried tuyo can SMELL. It is perfume for us Filipinos, but for other races, uhhh…not really. Our apartment even posted a not-so-friendly reminder against frying dried fish!

The apartment's anti-tuyo / any fried dried fish campaign

Are we the only race with smelly food? Is it even our fault that the building’s ventilation system is that bad?!? What the heck!

An answer from an insulted kabayan?

Good thing that I prefer the tuyo in a bottle, tuyo fillets swimming in spicy vinegary olive oil. But don’t you throw away that oil my dears, make sure you drizzle a tablespoon or two on a cup of white rice. It’s the cherry on top of your fishy “cake”!

How to achieve a frothy mug of tsokolate (image from

And now we have to wash everything down with a drink. I do just have glasses of cold water with my Filipino breakfast, but you just have to have a cup of Tsokolate (Hot Chocolate) to finish off the entire meal. How different is the Tsokolate from other hot chocolates? Instead of a smooth, creamy and silky finish, the Filipino tsokolate is thick but frothy with a gritty texture and nutty after-taste. A cup is good enough to warm you up for a fresh start to the new day ahead.

A cuppa tsokolate just warms my heart. (image from

How exactly can I forget such an UH-MAZING brekkie right!?!? Just thinking about it makes me miss home a wee bit more :-(

Thanks Ma for reminding me that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Being around 7,000 KM away from home, it is a reminder of my roots. I wake up each morning and know that I am Filipino, no matter what…even if someday, one day I would eventually end up changing passports. Yes seriously. Will you help me change my mind?

Delirious about delicious,


P.S. This post was so difficult for me to write. It took me more than a week to finish it! Ahhh…the struggles of coming out Pinoy! Is it too long a post or what?

P.P.S. Check out the other foodstuff favorites of mine here:

  1. Top Chef TV Show
  2. Bananas
  3. Strawberries
  4. Chili Con Carne
  5. Spanish Sardines
  6. Mila’s Tokwa’t Baboy 
  7. Taho in a cup
  8. Pipino Vegetarian Restaurant
  9. Arroz ala Cubana
  10. Aling Rita’s Isaw stall
  11. Milk Tea



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  1. says

    great read Didi, I understand where u r coming from about being Filipino. I come from Karachi, Pakistan and you know what that can mean these days. But I am so fiercely proud of that brave, tenacious city, I try not to hide my relationship with it behind the ‘foreign passport’…. which btw, i do confess also means a lot to me in more ways than one…

    I have to say I really admire the breakfast traditions of most southeast asian countries- talk about power breakfasts! I have been to Manila and i do remember eating garlic fried rice but sadly, my dad found mcdonalds easier to deal with and with two sulky teenagers in tow, i don’t blame him…:)

    • Didi says

      @ Shumaila: thanks for dropping by. It is hard being Filipino. My Filipino friends often talk about taking on a new passport almost every week. I guess being in a foreign country really opened my eyes on how the world sees us. Sometimes I have to see past the discrimination towards our nationality and see how beautiful we are (somehow).

      And yes, being such a morning person, breakfast is just love. Power breakfasts are great to jumpstart a busy day! And we Southeast asians do work hard so we need all the energy we can get.

      Great to know you got to visit Manila :) But I must say there is more to the Philippines than Manila! So hope you do visit the Philippines soon…there is more to see and more food to eat! Well, nothing I can do about sulky teenagers. Hahaha! They get the better of the parents ;p

  2. says

    Nice post Didi.

    Loved the chocolate rice porridge idea! And the breakfast math was pretty cool.

    I’m very lazy when it comes to breakfast too, but sometimes I do indulge in a nice, hearty breakfast to keep me going through the day. Mostly though, I’m just gulping down a glass of milk and sometimes, if I have the time, a bowl of cereal.

    • Didi says

      @ Devina: Champorado is sooo good! I prefer mine cold versus the traditional hot bowl of chocolate porridge. I;m not much of a cook (like you) but will post a recipe should I get the chance to prepare some. So hard to cook for two people. I am still managing the husband’s food preferences. Hehehe!

      I love breakfast but I miss it dearly. My schedule is weird now (I adjust to the Husband’s schedule as well to get nice quality time when he’s home) so I end up eating brunch instead. Oh how I enjoy Dubai brunches!

  3. says

    This post totally resonates with me, coz breakfast is honestly my FAVORITE meal of the day! I get super excited at night coz I know I’m gonna wake up to brekkie..such a geek like that. I love the sound of so many of the things you described…the Sinangag, and the Pandesal dipped in tea (YUM. ANYTHING DIPPED IN TEA = YUM) and the beef tapa. Why haven’t I tried this before, that too living in Dubai where I’m sure there are a ton of Filipino restaurants? Show me the way Didi, show me the way!!

    (God I love that 50 world breakfasts link…that goes into my foodie time capsule.)

    • Didi says

      @ Arva: I’m a morning person so I love breakfast too :-) One thing to look forward to as the day ends. Hehehe.

      What’s funny about us, we hardly eat at Filipino restaurants here. Plus most Filipinos believe that Filipino food is much better cooked from home. I know of some Filipino restaurants and can point you in the right direction somehow. Perhaps I can prepare beef tapa in the next potluck :-)

      And yes, that 50 world breakfast link is DIVINE. I hate going through the post because it makes me tummy grumble!

  4. says

    I love breakfast food but I don’t eat breakfast… tsk tsk tsk! I’ll eat the sinangag for lunch nlang! Pero my mom always said na “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”, but I don’t care… One thing that I don’t care about, too, is the people who don’t love our country. I mean, I am frustrated because of the government, but I love being a Filipino and I love traditional Filipino breakfasts.

    • Didi says

      @ Crixz: Yeah. we can still eat breakfast food anytime of the day! Hehehehe! that’s the good part :-) But I still enjoy my breakfast food in the morning :-)

      Don’t get me started about the things I hate about being Filipino: the government, part of cultural mentality, the effin’ Manila traffic, the denied privileges or difficulties around the world (especially when you travel) and more. But I do know I am Filipino, to the core, there is no denying that. So I just am irked by those Filipinos who DENY being Filipino just because they changed their passports. C’mon!