Lockdown Recipe Series: 3 Ways with Spam – Mapo Tofu, Sando and Fried Rice!

Such surreal and uncertain times we find ourselves in. With Supper Clubs and cooking gigs on hold in the coming months, I’ve found the past couple of weeks totally discombobulating – a mixture of worry, helplessness and anxiety on most days. The one solace however has been in the kitchen – cooking and mealtimes providing some semblance of structure to the day.

With my newfound spare time, I wanted to share some easy, pandemic-friendly recipes using mainly store cupboard and frozen ingredients. With everyone cooking more at home and fresh produce getting trickier to get a hold of, I figure simpler recipes will get far more mileage than the specialist Nyonya recipes that are usually published on here (with their trademark long ingredients lists!).

Each piece in this series will focus on a core ingredient, supported by pantry staples and longer life items such as pickles, cured products and ready-made sauces & condiments. And where better to start, than with one of my favourite store cupboard gems – SPAM a.k.a. Luncheon Meat!

A quick note on Luncheon Meat brands – the “Spam” brand is of course the most readily available.  Do however lookout for my favourite ‘Ma-Ling’ brand Luncheon Meat. I find it slightly less salty and prefer the smoother texture relative to Spam. You can find it easily in most Asian grocery shops. The larger supermarket giants such as Tesco also stock it these days.

So whether you have a block of Tofu in need of a makeover, some leftover rice to fry up, or if all you are after is a good ol’ sandwich, here are 3 ways with Spam that I hope will bring a little bit of tinned food joy into your locked down home kitchens.


Mapo Spam Tofu

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 1x 340g tin of Spam or Luncheon Meat (Ma-Ling brand preferably), cut into small 1cm cubes
  • 10ml vegetable oil
  • ½ onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, lightly crushed
  • 4 dried chillies, deseeded
  • 250g aubergine, cut into 1 cm cubes
  • 300g firm Tofu, cut into 1.5 cm cubes
  • 1 tbsp cornflour mixed with 50ml cold water (to thicken the sauce)
  • Pinch of sea Salt & white pepper to taste
  • 1 stalk spring onion, finely sliced for garnish

Sauce Mix:

  • 3 tbsp Doubanjiang chilli bean paste
  • 2 tbsp ‘Laoganma’ Preserved Black Beans in Chilli Oil (normal chilli oil will suffice too as a substitute)
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp 5-spice powder
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 150 ml water
  • Optional: 1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine

Method

  • In a medium-sized sauté pan, stir-fry the Spam cubes in the vegetable oil for about 3 minutes until golden brown. Using a slotted spoon, remove the Spam from the wok and set aside. Reserve the Spam-infused oil in the pan.
  • Add the onions, ginger, garlic, Szechuan peppercorns & dried chillies to the Spam-infused oil and stir-fry for 2 minutes on a low-medium heat until aromatic.
  • Add the aubergine and fry for 2 minutes then pour in the sauce mix. Cover with a lid and simmer everything for about 5 minutes until the aubergine is tender. Add a bit of water if the sauce starts to dry up.
  • Next, add the Tofu and fried Spam cubes in. Mix gently to avoid breaking up the Tofu too much. Cover with a lid and cook for a further 3 to 4 minutes. Thicken the sauce with the cornflour and season with a pinch of salt and pepper to taste.
  • Garnish with spring onions and serve with plenty of steamed rice!

Spam Sambal Cheese Sando

Ingredients (serves 1)

  • Half of a 340g tin of Spam or luncheon meat, cut into 1cm thick slices
  • 10ml vegetable oil
  • 2 slices white bread, thick-sliced
  • 10g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 slice Emmental cheese (grated will do just fine too, as long as there’s enough cheese to cover one slice of bread)
  • 3 slices pickled gherkins
  • 1 tsp ready-made sambal chilli paste (I favour ‘Tean’s Gourmet’ if you can find it)

Method

  • Heat up the oil in a large frying pan, and cook the Spam slices over a medium-high heat, about 2 minutes each side until golden brown. Set aside, reserving the Spam-infused oil.
  • Spread the butter on the 2 slices of bread. Starting with the side without the butter, fry the bread in the reserved spam oil for 1 to 2 minutes until lightly toasted.
  • Flip both slices of bread and fry the buttered side. Set 1 slice aside when toasted for the top slice. For the other slice, top with the cheese and cook until it has melted and the bread is toasted. Cover with a lid to help generate some steam to melt the cheese if needed.
  • Cover the cheese with the fried Spam slices, spread a teaspoon of sambal all over the Spam, then top off with sliced gherkins.
  • Add the top slice of bread to assemble the full sando & tuck in!

 


Kimchi Spam Fried Rice

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1x 340g tin of Spam or Luncheon Meat (Ma-Ling brand preferably), cut into small 1cm cubes
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • ½ onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 200g mixed vegetables, (e.g. leftover courgettes, carrots, peas or the standard frozen carrot-corn-pea medley will do the job)
  • 4 servings of Jasmine rice, cooked (see rice cooking tips/notes below)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 200g Kimchi. roughly chopped
  • Salt to taste

Sauce Mix:

  • 2 tbsp Gojuchang Korean red pepper paste
  • 2 tbsp ABC Kecap Manis (sweet soya sauce)
  • 2 tbsp light soya sauce
  • 2 tbsp hot water

Method

  • In a large wok (or frying pan), stir-fry the Spam cubes in the vegetable oil for about 2 to 3 minutes until golden brown. Using a slotted spoon, remove the Spam from the wok and set aside. Reserve the Spam-infused oil in the wok to fry your rice!
  • Add the onions, stir-fry for 1 to 2 minutes until fragrant then add the garlic and mixed vegetables. Stir-fry for about 3 minutes.
  • Next, add the cooked rice and sauce mix. Stir-fry until the rice grains are hot and steaming throughout.
  • Add the Eggs in and mix thoroughly through the hot rice grains until the egg has fully cooked through.
  • Lastly, add the chopped Kimchi and mix through. Season with salt to taste then serve up!

 

Rice Cooking Tips & Notes:

  • How much rice per person? Budget about 140g weight of uncooked rice per serving. When cooked, the weight will roughly double up (280g cooked rice weight per serving). The handy small plastic cup that comes included with most rice cookers is sized to measure one rice serving.
  • Wash your rice grains a couple of times in water and strain off the starchy liquid with a fine sieve! The rice will taste lighter, fluffier and will be less susceptible to burning at the base of the pan.
  • How much water? Different rice varieties take up different amounts of water so check the packet instructions if in doubt! For Jasmine Rice, use 1 part rice to 1.25 parts water. The water level in the pot should be about 1.5cm above the level of rice. Use the ‘finger tip dip test’ by dipping your index finger into the water until it touches the top level of the rice grains. The water level should just come up to the first finger joint!
  • Cooking. If you have a rice cooker, you are all set! The rice cooker will look after itself when switched on and keep warm after cooking. If you don’t have a rice cooker, a lidded saucepan will do the job just fine too. Once the rice is washed and water level measured, bring everything up in the saucepan to a simmer, turn down to a low-medium heat, then cover with a lid and cook for about 12-15 minutes, then set aside for another 5 minutes off the heat until the rice grains are fully cooked through. Lightly mix and fluff up the rice with a spoon or fork when cooked.
  • Leftover rice (chilled overnight in the fridge) or cooled down rice is best for frying! The grains dry out, soaking up more flavour and it is less susceptible to getting mushy when fried.

Stay well (& stay at home!) until this all blows over folks.

G.