There is an almost myopic focus on kimchi in South Korean cuisine – in addition to being eaten plain with white rice at virtually every meal, kimchi is used as a spicy and pungent foundation for many Korean dishes such as kimchi jigae, kimchijeon, and kimchi bokkeumbap, or kimchi fried rice. The importance of kimchi is so paramount that one of the considerations for sending the first South Korean astronaut into space was a multimillion dollar research initiative to devise a microbe-free kimchi recipe that could be brought aboard the International Space Station.
In this variation, the typical fried egg topping is substituted with egg yolks that are cured in soy sauce, garlic, and fermented red pepper paste (gochujang), a technique which simultaneously dehydrates the yolk and infuses it with the marinade. The yolks are then placed on top of individual servings and punctured with a fork, releasing an intensely flavored molten ooze that can be mixed into the fried rice. Curing the yolks takes about 10 hours, but the time can be varied, which will affect its final texture. Shorter times will yield runnier yolks and prolonged cures produce a solid that can be grated and used as a condiment. As was the case with Hawaii, Guam, and other U.S. territories during the second World War, Spam was popularized in South Korea by American soldiers during and after the Korean War – bacon or any other type of meat can be substituted in its stead.
KIMCHI FRIED RICE // SPAM + SOY-CURED EGG YOLK
Soy-cured egg yolks:
- ½ cup of soy sauce
- 2 tbsp gochujang
- 2 tbsp honey or white sugar
- 2-3 cloves of minced garlic
- 4 yolks, separated
- 4-6 cups of cooked white rice, preferably either day-old leftovers or freshly cooked with slightly reduced water
- 1 cup diced kimchi with juices
- ½ can of diced spam
- 1 tbsp gochujang
- 2-3 tbsp sesame oil
- 1-2 cloves of minced garlic
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 bunch of chopped scallions
- Dried seaweed, for garnish (optional)
6-12 hours prior to cooking, mix the curing ingredients in a small bowl and add four separated yolks into the mixture. The leftover egg whites can be used for other purposes or added to the fried rice. Gently swirl the container and set aside in the refrigerator.
In a wok or wide skillet, heat 2-3 tbsp of sesame oil and sauté ½ can of diced spam until browned. Stir in 1 cup of kimchi with juices, 1 tbsp gochujang, and 1-2 cloves of minced garlic and mix until incorporated. Over high heat, stir in cooked white rice and stir fry until cooked through. Season to taste with salt and fish sauce.
Arrange individual bowls with scallion garnish, dried seaweed (optional), and one cured egg yolk. Serve immediately.
Adapted from Lady and Pups – Spicy Cured Yolk Rice Bowl.