Kim Chee Fried Rice

Kimchee, or spicy pickled cabbage, is a mainstay of the Korean kitchen. At it’s simplest it is chopped nappa cabbage mixed with salt and lots of red pepper and allowed to ferment for a while. It can be bought at Oriental groceries and is also ridiculously easy to make at home (my recipe is here). Combined with Spam it make a very tasty fried rice.

Did I say Spam, that meat-like substance is the square can that is the butt of many culinary jokes? I did indeed. It seems that Spam, a regular part of military rations for many years, has been introduced into the indigenous cuisine of some places where the U.S. had a strong military presence for many years, including Hawaii, the Philippines, and Korea. And it works very well in this dish. Lacking Spam, you can use ham or some other cooked meat.

The best rice for this is short-grained “Japanese” rice. I think of this rice as Japanese because it is the rice typically served in Japanese restaurants and use to make sushi rice. The rice should be rinsed well, cooked, and allowed to cool. Leftover rice that has been in the fridge for a few days is ideal.

Serves 4

1/2 stick butter
1 small onion coarsely chopped
2 c kimchee in about 1 inch pieces
1 c spam or other meat in small (1/4″) dice
4-5 c cooked short grain rice at room temperature
1/4 c kimchee juice or more to taste
1-1/2 TB soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
1 TB vegetable oil
4 eggs
Nori and toasted sesame seeds for garnish (see note below)

Melt the butter in a wok or nonstick skillet over medium heat and cook the onion for a few minutes. Add the kimchee and kimchee juice and bring to a simmer. Add the Spam and cook, stirring, until the liquid is almost gone. Add the rice and stir, breaking up any clumps, until the rice is hot and evenly mixed with the other ingredients. Stir in the soy sauce and sesame oil. Reduce heat slightly and let cook, uncovered and undisturbed, while you prepare the eggs. The bottom of the rice will get slightly browned and crispy.

In another skillet, heat the oil and cook the eggs “sunny side up” until the whites are set and the yolk is still runny. Divide the rice among 4 bowls and top each with an egg. Serve with the garnishes on the side.

Note: Nori is roasted seaweed that is perhaps best known for wrapping maki (rolled) sushi. If your nori is a bit stale (not crisp) you can rejuvenate it with heat. On a flat-top range do this directly on the element, on other stoves use a griddle or large skillet. Over medium high heat, use chopsticks or tongs to quickly drag each sheet of nori over the hot surface, both sides. That’s it!

Sesame seeds are tastier if toasted. Simply heat a dry frypan over medium heat, add the seeds in a thin layer, and cook, shaking, until aromatic. Cool and store in an airtight jar for up to a few months.

 

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