When I was writing my last blogpost about Smoked Pork Hock Minestrone, I began to think about some of the fondest comfort foods from my childhood.
“As a kid, what kind of food do you crave for when you were hungry?”
It seems there is an ingredient that is almost universal across many cultures, where it has been eaten with breakfast eggs, made into sandwiches, salads, omelettes and as it so happens, popular in fried rice too.
I distinctively recall SPAM fried rice to be a very popular food among kids growing up in Asia. I remember this dish well because the little cubes of so-called “spiced ham” was always so tasty among all the boring bits of carrot, beans and peas in my fried rice.
What exactly is in a can of SPAM that makes it so tasty? I tried to do some research online but even the SPAM webite tells us little about the origins of its name.
For lack of any credible information about its composition, I prefer to think of the acronym for SPAM as being Something Posing As Meat. It’s a gentle reminder for me that tasty as it may be, I should not OD on this stuff.
I prefer the SPAM Lite version because it contains 50% less fat than the SPAM Classic version. The Nutritional Information says the main ingredients are pork and chicken although I have always been skeptical.
The Nutritional Information for SPAM Lite (which contains 50% less fat than the regular SPAM Classic as specified on its label are:
Average Values Quantity per serving Quantity per 100gm
Energy 473 kJ (113 Cal) 845kJ (202 Cal)
Protein 9.0 g 16.1 g
Fat, total 7.5 g 13.4 g
– Saturated 3.0 g 5.4 g
Carbohydrate, total 2.0 g 3.6 g
Sugar 1.0 g 1.8 g
Sodium 500 mg 1035.7 mg
The ingredients of the 340 gm net container of SPAM Lite consists of:
- Pork 68%
- Chicken 23%
- Water, salt, thickener (1442)
- Sugar, Mineral Salts (339, 508)
- Antioxidant (301)
- Preservatives (250)
This Hormel Foods brand is a product of the USA and the instructions also indicate the contents are fully cooked and ready to eat cold or hot.
So here it is, my SPAM fried rice recipe:
SPAM Fried Rice
I have found it easy to start of by making a stringy egg omelette. An alternative to stringy egg omelette is to gently fry a couple of eggs.
When the omelette is done, it’s time to sear the slices of SPAM until golden brown and then diced into smaller cubes and cooked again until it is slightly crispy on the outside.
It can be difficult to resist popping a few of these delicious nuggets into your mouth as it is being cooked.
- 2 cups of Jasmine rice (steamed and cooled overnight)
- 1 can SPAM Lite, cut into 1 cm slices
- 1 – 2 small carrots, finely diced
- small bunch of French beans, finely diced
- 5 – 6 Chinese mushrooms, soaked in cold water until soft then sliced thinly
- Half cup of green peas
- 1 brown onion, finely diced
- 4 cloves of garlic, finely diced
- 1 – 2 stalks of shallots, julienne finely
- 1 – 2 red chillies, julienne finely
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 3 -4 tablespoon Shao Xing wine
- 5 tablespoon light soy sauce
- Vegetable oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil a wok / frying pan then pour in beaten egg and form a thin layer. When the underside is slightly brown, flip the egg over and sear until both sides are cooked. Set aside and when cooled, roll each egg omelette and then slice thinly.
- Heat 3 – 4 tablespoon of vegetable oil in the same wok and sautee the diced carrots, French beans, onions and garlic. When the vegetables are slightly transluscent, add the Shao Xing wine and stir-fry until fragrant, then side aside vegetables.
- Sear the SPAM Lite slices in the wok until they are golden brown and slightly crispy on both sides. Set aside and cut the slices into small cubes.
- Heat 3 – 4 tablespoon of vegetable oil in the same wok, then add the cold steamed rice and gently stir-fry until the rice coated with the oil. Add in the light soy sauce to give some colour to the rice.
- Add the vegetables and Chinese mushrooms to the rice and stir fry until all the ingredients are mixed together.
- Just before serving, mix the green peas into the warm rice.
- Garnish with the stringy egg omelette, julienne shallots and red chillies.
- The egg omelette can overcook / burn easily if the wok is very hot so be careful not to leave the egg cooking for too long on each side.
- Cook the SPAM Lite thoroughly until the cubes are all golden brown and crispy outside. If SPAM is under-cooked, there can be an unpleasant raw meat aroma.
- Make sure the steamed rice is cold or at least room temperature when adding it to the wok. This is to ensure the rice turns out firm and fluffy because stir-frying warm or hot steam rice will render the rice soggy and sticky.
- Do not overcook the diced carrots, French beans and onions or it will lose its crunchiness. Once it is translucent, quickly remove from wok and let cool. You will still need to cook it a further when stir-frying with the rice.
- Ensure the wok / frying pan is very hot when adding the cooled steam rice. It should make a continuous cracking sound as you are stir-frying the rice.
- The secret to a good fried rice is that every grain should be firm and not stuck together. To achieve this, ensure there is just sufficient vegetable oil (not too much either) and keep stir frying the steamed rice in a very hot wok until all the individual grains separate.
- You do not need to cook the green peas. I find that adding the peas to the warm rice just before serving allows the peas to retain its crunchy texture, fresh flavour and bright green colour that give visual vibrancy to this dish.
- Be cautious when adding salt and soy sauce as the SPAM Lite is quite salty due to its relatively high salt content.
This is a great weeknight recipe and the rice can be kept fresh in the refrigerator for a couple of days. Just reheat for a simple meal the day after.
If I am cooking for friends, I like to present this beautiful fried rice that is studded with bright green peas and cubes of SPAM on the wok that I cooked it with.
Not only do you save washing another large platter, the wok is an elegant presentation that also keeps the rice nice and warm.
How to eat fried rice
Fried rice is a quintessential Chinese comfort food.
I would recommend you try and experience eating this fried rice using a bowl and a pair of chopsticks rather than from a plate with a fork and spoon.
Challenging as it can be to some, picking up a few grains of rice with some peas and those cubes of SPAM with a pair of chopsticks is all part of the fun and excitement, especially when you are hungry.
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