This simple stir-fry recipe has its roots in over a thousand years of trade history between Okinawa and South East Asia, Japan, China and, most recently, America. It is the iconic dish of Okinawa and tells its whole story in just one plate. Although you can substitute pork belly for the Spam if you really have an aversion, just know that I asked one 90-year-old Okinawan lady what they used on the island for their goya champuru before Spam. Her response, “I don’t even remember.”
- 300 g firm tofu
- 1 bitter melon (goya)
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 150 g Spam, cut into large pieces, or 150 g pork belly, skin and bone removed, thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp light soy sauce
- 1 tbsp sake
- 1 tbsp mirin
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 handful (about 5 g) bonito flakes
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Standing time 15 minutes
To prepare the tofu, wrap in paper towel and place in a dish. Place a heavy plate on top and stand for 15 minutes.
To prepare the bitter melon, split it in half lengthways and use a spoon to scrape out the seeds and spongy centre. Scatter with the salt and allow to drain in a colander for 15 minutes. Rinse well in cold water and drain. Slice widthways into strips.
Heat a wok and add the oil. Stir-fry the Spam or pork belly until browned and it has released its oil. Remove from the wok and set aside. Add the bitter melon and stir-fry for about 2 minutes or until softened. Remove it from the wok and set aside with the Spam.
Add a little more oil to the wok if necessary, and break the tofu into the oil. Fry, stirring just occasionally, until the tofu starts to brown. Return the Spam and bitter melon back to the wok and add the soy, sake and mirin, and toss to combine.
Move all the contents of the wok to one side and add the beaten egg to the open side. Stir the egg until it starts to set, then stir through the other ingredients. Toss through the bonito flakes, season to taste and serve.