This dish is most probably rooted in the Mindanaoan kuning, a yellow rice dish related to the Indonesian nasi kuning.
Both Mindanaoan and Indonesian kuning are colored with turmeric and cooked with an array of spices, but the Mindanaoan version excludes coconut milk among the ingredients.
The difference between Java rice (a name popularized in Metro Manila) and Minadanaoan kuning is the cooking method. Kuning is rice cooked in water with turmeric and spices; Java rice is cooked rice tossed in turmeric tinted oil in which spices had been sauteed.
What spices? Garlic, ginger, finely chopped shallot (or onion), finely chopped lemongrass, finely sliced bird’s eye chili and turmeric powder. Rice is added, seasoned with salt and tossed until the golden oil coats every grain and the rice is heated through.
Before serving, a final taste. Needs more salt? Add a few pinches and toss thoroughly. Keep at it until you find the balance you like.
- Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan.
- Add the garlic, ginger, shallot, lemongrass, chili and turmeric.
- Cook over medium heat until the mixture starts to look pasty (the oil will be absorbed by the other ingredients).
- Add the rice to the pan. Sprinkle in a teaspoon of salt
- Stir and toss over high heat until the rice is heated through and every grain is coated with the spicy yellow paste.
- Taste, add more salt if needed, and toss to blend the flavors.