In a scrum, the hooker is positioned in the middle of the front row, bound together with the opposing team’s hooker, putting him right in the middle of the scrum.

If you don’t follow rugby, that was probably way more than you wanted or needed to know. I was just watching some clips of the All Blacks, which is how I figured out what I’m going to write about tonight.

Everyone needs a few recipes that can be put together in a hurry when you’re just not feeling like doing anything hard. It’s late at night and you want something comforting. You worked overtime again and don’t have time to prepare what you originally had planned. It’s snowing again outside for the third day in a row. Everyone has their reasons.

So far, you’re probably with me, but we’re about to take a left turn. I’m going to mate kimchi fried rice (Kimchi Bokkeumbap, 김치 볶음밥) with Hawaiian Spam fried rice in the ultimate matchup.

Did you just shudder? If the food snob in you just did the hokey pokey, I need you to turn yourself about. This is a journey worth taking. Korea and Hawaii are about to have the ultimate scrum of scrums, and you’re coming out the winner of this match.

Like all good stories, it begins with a Tupperware (or off-brand, I ain’t picky) tub of leftover rice.

Please don’t cook up some fresh steamed rice. It’s going to be moist and soft and when you try and turn it into a stir fry it’s going to get mushy. Bad things will happen, and if you’re making this dish for any of the reasons I listed above, you don’t need any more disappointment in your day. Reach into your fridge for some leftover rice from a day or two ago. If you don’t have leftover rice, make sure you pick up Spam and kimchi on your next grocery trip, and there will come a day when we can make this recipe. Trust me.

Now, let’s do this thing. If we wait much longer, you’re going to sober up, or fall asleep, or order a pizza.

Get these ingredients out of your fridge and cupboards and set them down on the counter…

Bare minimum ingredients:

  • 2 to 3 cups of leftover rice. Long grain is best, Basmati might fall apart before we are done, and YES, I have even used leftover Chinese takeout rice. Rules are for pastry chefs.
  • 1 tin of Spam. You can opt for low fat or low sodium if you’re already mildly horrified by the direction we’re pointing. No one is judging you. This is the Hawaiian side of the recipe… the island’s love affair with Spam began in World War II, when GIs were served the salty luncheon meat because it didn’t require refrigeration and had a long shelf life. Their current tagline is just killer: “Don’t knock it ’til you’ve fried it.”
  • At least a half-cup of kimchi. If your kimchi super-chunky, with bits of cabbage that are still decidedly recognizable, I’m sure this would add a very sculptural feel, but I’m still going to suggest that you chose it up some until nothing’s more than an inch.
  • 1/2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 4 eggs

If you are feeling fancy:

  • 2 to 4 stalks of green onions
  • Roasted, seasoned nori (seaweed cut) into long strips
  • Enoki mushrooms. Fry them separately in butter and mix them in at the last moment before serving.
  • Hot sauce (I can’t, but many people can and do!)

Heat up your wok or a deep frying pan. Add the sesame oil and garlic and cook for a half minute at least to get it warmed through.

Brown the Spam. Try and use a gentle hand, or you’ll break it into tiny chunks (which will still taste fine, but won’t look quite as nice). I’m hoping you come out with perfectly-browned pieces, the size of the eight dot Lego bricks. If you are anything like me, two sides are darker, two sides are medium, and the ends lighter still. It’s okay, this is a safe place. I figure its only on TV where folks get all the sides done equal. Once they’re browned, toss it in a bowl for a bit while you get the rice up to speed.

Things are about to get highly technical. Dump the kimchi into the pan. If you strained the pieces out of the liquid, please go back to the jar and pour in at least a few tablespoons of the kimchi juice. Knock the rice out of the Tupperware from the fridge and start stirring it into the rice. Keep stirring until the rice is warmed through. Fold the Spam back in to the rice until they all start looking friendly.

If you went fancy, add half the green onions while you are heating the rice. When you’re done, add the rest of the green onions and the enoki (if you went that way). More umami never hurt anyone.

Top with the nori and crispy fried eggs (at least one egg per person you are serving). If you’re the kind of person who just got nervous, wondering how to make the fried egg crispy, because you don’t want to mess up a recipe where I used the words “Spam” and “dump” without flinching, you can watch this short video. Crispy underneath, yolk still runny.


Buddha BowlCongratulations. You have formed the perfect scrum, locking teams from Hawaii and Korea into the Ultimate Matchup. Mine fills my Buddha bowl and my chopsticks are in motion in almost no time at all. Thanks to my dad, I’m just as comfortable with them as a fork and a knife, and there is something about picking up bits of fried Spam with chopsticks that absolutely tickles me.

If you like this recipe, you will find that like any stir fry, you can add all sorts of things to it that I didn’t think of. Go forth and experiment.

After you’ve eaten dinner, take some time to meet the All Blacks as they perform a haka, which is a ceremonial dance or challenge in Māori culture. Normally, they do Ka Mate Ka Mate, but the video below is a new one (Kapa O Pango), written specifically for the team. Our trip to New Zealand got cancelled last year on account of COVID-19, but I am going to find my way to watch them play again.

For those of you keeping score: no, I don’t stay on topic in my blog posts. Roll with it.