For non-Filipinos, and for Filipinos who left to settle elsewhere in the world before Java rice became the better half of all things grilled in restaurants that specialize in grilled food, Java rice is a yellow fried rice.
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.
- 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 solid 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.