Why It Works
- Working in batches ensures good flavor and plenty of heat for each ingredient.
- Draining the kimchi allows us to brown it for better flavor. Adding the liquid back afterward yields even better results.
- Letting the rice sit undisturbed in the wok for a few moments before serving gives it a nice crisp crust.
The rice was left over from dinner a few days back. The kimchi had been resting on the back of the second shelf of my fridge for many months. Actually, I'm pretty sure I packed it up when we moved to San Mateo nearly a year ago, meaning it was extra sour and funky. The Spam...I'm honestly not sure where the Spam came from. I can't remember buying Spam since that one time four years ago, when we tasted every flavor of Spam on the market, took a brief lie-down to deal with the salt rush (immediately followed by a second lie-down to deal with the withdrawal symptoms), then ended it all with cooking over a dozen Spam-centric recipes.
Perhaps Spam spontaneously generates in dimly lit pantry closets, the way mice spontaneously appear when a piece of soiled linen is stored with the wheat.
Whatever the provenance, I knew its destination: Add to it an egg, an onion, and a few other aromatics, and I had everything on hand to make myself a big ol' plate of the ultimate Korean-American late-night drunk food: kimchi and Spam fried rice. This is the kind of stuff you eat while swaying gently over the kitchen counter in your underwear.
I based the method on the techniques I outlined in my article on how to make the best fried rice, with a couple of twists thrown in toward the end.
To start, I drain away as much of the kimchi juice as possible into a bowl, pressing on the cabbage to really force it out. The reason is that we want to sauté the kimchi and give it a little flavor, and any excess moisture will inhibit that. Don't worry, we'll use it all again later on.
Next, I start stir-frying, beginning with diced Spam. Even though Spam is packed with fat, you need a little oil in the pan to get it started. I cook the Spam until it's crisp, then add chopped onions and the chopped kimchi, stir-frying it all together until the onions are softened and the kimchi is just starting to brown a bit around the edges. I then transfer everything to a bowl to empty out the wok.
With a Western range, there's simply not enough heat input to allow you to cook everything simultaneously, so cooking in batches is the way to go, including with the rice. When I first made this, I was using day-old rice, so I broke it up by hand before adding it to the preheated oil in the hot wok. With fresh-cooked rice, there's no need to break it up before adding it.
I cook the rice in two separate batches, then add them both back to the wok, leaving a little space in the center for my aromatics: scallions, garlic, and thinly sliced hot chiles to double down on the heat from the kimchi. As soon as they're fragrant, I return the kimchi/Spam mixture to the wok and toss it all together.
Now we get to seasoning. The kimchi juice is the first step, and with high enough heat, it should sizzle and dry up pretty rapidly. I also use a big splash of fish sauce, a touch of toasted sesame oil, and a ton of ground black pepper. Sesame oil and ground black pepper go together like Bert and Ernie, if Bert and Ernie tasted way, way better than they do.
Here's the real trick: letting that rice sit in the wok without moving it. The idea is to create a crisp, charred fried-rice shell, like what you'd find in the bottom of a good paella or a dolsot bibimbap.
It's the textural element and toasty flavor that push this over the edge, from "this is pretty good" to "please don't talk to me while I'm eating this"–level stuff. Top it all off with a crisply fried egg and some hot sauce, and...I'm not even sure what territory we're in, but it's a good place to be.
Whether it's first thing in the morning or late at night, any time that you're typically in your underwear is the right time for kimchi and Spam fried rice. It's time to rock out with your wok out, or maybe chow down with your pants down. Or both. Or neither. I'm too tipsy and hungry to care, really.
How to Make Extra-Crispy Fried Eggs
2 cups cooked white rice (12 ounces; 350g) (see notes)
3/4 pound kimchi with juices (about 1 cup packed; 340g)
2 tablespoons (30ml) vegetable or canola oil, divided
1 (12-ounce; 340g) can Spam, cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch dice
1 large onion, finely diced (1 1/2 cups; 12 ounces; 340g)
4 scallions, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced (about 1/4 cup; 40g)
2 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons; 10ml)
1 hot red or green chile (such as jalapeño, serrano, or Thai bird), stemmed and thinly sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons (10ml) Asian fish sauce
1 teaspoon (5ml) toasted sesame oil
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves and fine stems (1/2 ounce; 14g)
Fried eggs, for serving
Hot sauce, for serving
If using day-old rice, transfer to a medium bowl and break rice up with your hands into individual grains before proceeding. Place kimchi in a fine-mesh strainer set over a large bowl and squeeze out excess liquid. Reserve liquid and finely chop kimchi.
Heat 1/2 tablespoon oil in a wok over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add Spam and cook, tossing and stirring frequently, until well browned and starting to crisp. Add chopped kimchi and onion and cook, stirring and tossing regularly, until vegetables are softened, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Add another 1/2 tablespoon oil to wok. Increase heat to high and heat until smoking. Add half of rice and cook, stirring and tossing, until rice is pale brown, toasted, and has a slightly chewy texture, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl. Repeat with another 1/2 tablespoon oil and remaining rice.
Return all rice to wok and press it up the sides, leaving a space in the middle. Add another 1/2 tablespoon oil to the space. Add scallions (reserving some for garnish), garlic, and chile. Stir gently and cook until lightly softened and fragrant, about 1 minute. Toss with rice to combine. Add onion, kimchi, and Spam mixture and toss to combine. Pour in reserved kimchi juice and season generously with black pepper. Add fish sauce, sesame oil, and cilantro (reserving some cilantro for garnish). Toss everything to combine. Season to taste with salt if necessary. When ready to serve, allow rice to sit in wok without tossing for 45 seconds to create a crisp crust underneath.
Turn rice out onto a serving platter, trying to get as much of the crispy rice facing up as possible. Top with fried eggs, sprinkle with reserved scallions and cilantro, and serve immediately with hot sauce.
For best results, use Chinese-style medium-grain rice, jasmine rice, or sushi rice. Rice should either be cooked fresh, spread on a tray, and allowed to cool for 5 minutes, or transferred to a loosely covered container and refrigerated for at least 12 hours and up to three days.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 2 to 3|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 47g||60%|
|Saturated Fat 14g||69%|
|Total Carbohydrate 56g||20%|
|Dietary Fiber 5g||17%|
|Total Sugars 8g|
|Vitamin C 17mg||84%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|