Whenever I go home my mom makes a huge vat of kimchi fried rice and leaves a firm note: ERIC, EAT. I've seen her cook it a thousand times, yet I don't feel that mine has ever come out like hers. She once said that the secret to her kimchi fried rice is, well, the kimchi. And though I'm able to recreate some version of her spicy-briny cabbage from taste memory, my kimchi will never be her kimchi, and in turn neither will my kimchi fried rice ever be her kimchi fried rice. Still, here it is: my best effort at Korean ambrosia, which, when you really look at it, isn't much at all. Just a cheap way to use up leftover rice with this and that from the pantry. A proper holdover comfort of my childhood, this is all I want to eat at the end of a rough week—proper mom food. —Eric Kim
First, heat the sesame oil in a very large, nonstick pan or wok. Crisp up the Spam, then add the kimchi (hold the juice for later) and sauté for a few minutes until fragrant and darker in color.
At this point you can mix in the rice, breaking it up with your fingers or with a wooden spoon. Add the kimchi juice, soy sauce, and more oil here if you need. Be diligent with that spoon, stirring constantly and scraping up any rice that sticks to the bottom (this is where one of those nonstick pans with that old-fashioned red dot in the middle comes in handy). Cook for 5 to 10 minutes until everything is well-combined and slightly toasted.
To finish, crush the roasted seaweed snack with your hands and mix into the rice. I find that this really rounds everything out and means you can skip extra seasoning. (The kimchi and Spam are salty enough, anyway; plus, this is what my mom does.)
It's traditional to top each serving with a fried egg—to be exact, a gooey, runny egg, barely set, coating the red rice with yolky gold.
Eric Kim is the Table for One columnist at Food52. Formerly the managing editor at Food Network and a PhD candidate in literature at Columbia University, he is currently working on his first cookbook, to be published by Clarkson Potter in Spring 2022. His favorite writers are William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, and Ernest Hemingway, but his hero is Nigella Lawson. You can find his bylines at Saveur, Bon Appétit, and The New York Times and follow him on Twitter @ericjoonho. Born and raised in Georgia, Eric lives in a tiny shoebox in Manhattan with his dog, Quentin "Q" Compson.