Growing up, whenever my brother and dad weren’t at home, my mom would shortcut things and turn leftovers into a quick and easy meal for us girls. I don’t think she knew she was making recipes that I would carry forward and turn into my children’s favorite meals.
One of these thrown-together meals was my mom’s fried rice. Made from yesterday’s rice and whatever she could find in the fridge, it became something I looked forward to. Eventually, this patched-together meal evolved into the most incredible and flavorful kimchi and Spam fried rice.
The Best Rice for Fried Rice
Traditionally, fried rice is made with long-grain rice, which has lower starch and is a bit on the dry side. Since it’s what I grew up with, I prefer to use short-grain rice, which is more moist and plump.
It is always best to use cold, day-old rice—or even rice leftover from takeout—to make fried rice, since it absorbs the seasonings better. Hot, fresh rice has too much moisture to absorb the seasonings and becomes gummy.
The Key Ingredients
Kimchi: When cooking with wine you should always use one you would like to drink. It’s the same with kimchi. Use a kimchi in your fried rice that you would want to eat. Some people say you should use older, more “sour” kimchi, but fresh is fine here. If you make your own kimchi, great! If not, there are amazing store brands out there.
Spam: Koreans have a history with Spam that has a lot to do with the Korean War, food scarcity, and survival. This has evolved into a love affair with the canned meat. This salty, fatty pork product has won a place in our hearts, our budae jjigae, and our fried rice. This recipe calls for half a can of Spam. You can use the rest fried next to eggs or sliced in your ramen.
Vegetables: My mom added onion and carrot into her fried rice because it was always in the fridge at home. She never put kale, but I like the way the dark green leaves look and taste against the salty Spam and the spicy kimchi. We never use peas, because we all hated them, but if you want them, I won’t look.
The beauty of fried rice is that it easily adapts to whatever ingredients you have on hand. There’s no need to make a special trip to the store if you don’t have everything on the ingredient list. I often make this kimchi and Spam fried rice, but I don’t always make it the same way.
Sometimes I enjoy adding some beautifully caramelized mushrooms. Other times I add quick scrambled eggs. There are even times that I take it back to when my children were little, forgo the kimchi altogether, and make their favorite Spam fried rice.
Whatever you choose to include, consider how you are slicing and dicing the ingredients. Cutting all of your ingredients the same size gives your fried rice a more uniform, pleasing appearance. Adding them to the pan in stages allows the hardier vegetables, like carrots and onions, to cook thoroughly before adding the more quickly cooking vegetables, like the kimchi and kale.
How To Store and Reheat Leftovers
Refrigerate leftover fried rice in an airtight container for up to 5 days. You can freeze it too. Place it in zip-top bags, roll the bag up to remove as much air as possible, and freeze for up to a month.
You can easily reheat leftover fried rice in the microwave or on the stovetop. Thaw frozen rice in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours. Sprinkle over top of the cold fried rice with a tablespoon of water per serving before heating.
Crisp the Spam:
Heat a large, heavy-bottomed skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the oil along with the Spam. Sauté until crispy around the edges, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate.
Cook the vegetables:
Add the onion and carrot to the skillet with the Spam drippings. Sauté on medium-high heat until the onions turn translucent and the carrots soften and take some color.
Add the garlic and ginger and sauté until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the kimchi, kale, and white parts of the green onions and stir fry until the kimchi and kale start to caramelize and the onions are translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the kimchi juice and simmer until heated through.
Stir fry the rice:
Add the rice and toss until everything is combined evenly. Drizzle in the soy sauce and sesame oil as you continue mixing. Taste and adjust with more soy sauce, sesame oil, or kimchi juice if needed for flavor.
Turn the heat down slightly and let the rice continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until some crispy bits can be seen on the bottom. Stir in the Spam and most of the green parts of the green onions.
Serve the rice topped with the rest of the green onions and a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds. Top each serving with a fried egg, if desired.
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