This Burong Mustasa fried rice recipe is an attempt to restore a beloved routine that my mother and I used to enjoy before the pandemic hit. It’s a dish we often ordered for lunch at the restaurant of a Buddhist temple after spending the morning together. I tried to recreate it because the temple unfortunately has already closed its restaurant to the public, and I miss temple food.
I have a fondness for temple cooking. Literally food served to the monks in temples, they are very simple dishes that use humble seasonal ingredients, often harvested from small farms or gardens within or near temple grounds.
Compassion and creativity
Because of their strong religious foundation, temple food is traditionally vegetarian, if not vegan, as they emphasize compassion for all living beings and abstain from meat and animal-derived products. They avoid strong-smelling vegetables such as garlic, onion, leeks, and scallions, as they believe these promote desire or distraction. They also often eschew processed ingredients, because food is meant to invite nourishment, harmony, and balance.
Which isn’t to say that temple cooking is all about self-denial and therefore unappetizing or bland. I learned that temple food can be very delicious, given its reliance on food that is picked fresh and in season. Temple food can also be very creative, imparting flavors and creating umami and natural seasonings using different techniques, such as dehydration, pickling, and of course fermentation.
In this burong mustasa fried rice, the fermentation mellows down the sharpness of the mustard greens, and the ginger and sesame oil makes the rice aromatic. Because I enjoy garlic and onion and do not follow a monastic lifestyle, I reintroduce them in this recipe. You are of course free to remove them when making this dish.
- Cooking oil
- 1 red or white onion, chopped
- 1 carrot, peeled and diced
- 3 cloves of garlic (or more), minced
- 2 cups of day-old rice
- ½ cup burong mustasa (recipe here)
- Sesame oil
1. Squeeze the brine from fermented mustard greens. You will have about ¼ cup of greens. If you have a little bit more, that’s fine.
2. Chop the mustard greens roughly into smaller pieces.
3. In a hot pan or wok, add oil and fry the onion and carrots for 5 minutes or until the onions are translucent.
4. Add garlic and fry for a minute until fragrant.
5. Add the chopped mustard greens and sauté.
6. Add the day-old rice. Using a wooden spoon or wok spatula, break up the rice to remove any clumps.
7. Increase the heat and keep stirring the rice until heated through and the greens are distributed evenly.
8. Season the fried rice with salt, pepper, and a drizzle of sesame oil. Turn off the heat and serve immediately.