Matt Ortile's Favorite Comfort Food: Spamsilog (a diaspora recipe)

June 15, 2020

Photo by the author

The thing about spamsilog is that it’s every Filipino’s recipe. There’s no trick ingredient or secret sauce; no “my lola’s famous,” etc. Or maybe your lola does have a special spamsilog she whips up. Let me know. I’d love to try it. But at its most basic, spamsilog consists of three basic ingredients: rice, fried eggs and Spam — yup, the kind that comes in a can.

Spam came to the Philippines during World War II, when we were still property of the United States. To feed hungry troops in the Pacific colonies, the U.S. Army sent over loads of the shelf-stable canned good. Even into the ’90s, when I was a kid growing up in Manila, Spam remained a luxury stateside import. I was always stoked to find it in the balikbayan boxes my grandmother sent us from San Francisco. In that way, spamsilog is a quintessential Filipino American dish.

It’s also the perfect self-isolation meal. Uncooked rice and unopened Spam can stick around for months; your eggs, keep them in the fridge for up to three weeks. I’ve been eating spamsilog nearly every day for brunch while staying home. It’s comforting and simple; junk food-y enough that it feels like a treat, yet slightly involved enough that it feels like cuisine. Though no one in my family ever taught me how, I feel at my most Filipino when I make it — just another brown boy, making do with the detritus of colonialism, wiping sunshine yolk from his lips.

The recipe
Cooking time: 20ish minutes?
Serves: You (and whoever else is in your quar pod, I suppose)

Very simply, spamsilog is exactly what it says on the tin: Spamsilog = Spam + sinangag (fried rice) + itlog (egg).

For the (fried) rice:

  • 1 cup uncooked rice
  • 1 ½ cup water
  • Salt, to taste
  • Minced garlic, as much as you want
  • Cooking oil, as much as you need
  1. Wash and rinse the uncooked rice. Not a totally necessary step, but it makes your rice fluffier.
  2. Put the rice in a rice cooker. Add water. Salt the water to taste (a little goes a long way).
  3. Let the rice cooker … cook. Prepare the Spam and the eggs in the meantime.

Once the rice is cooked,  you can have your spamsilog with plain rice; or, if you wanna go the extra mile, you can turn it into fried/garlic rice.

  1. Heat a pan over medium heat (the same pan in which you cook the eggs and the Spam), then heat the oil.
  2. Add the garlic, cook until turning golden.
  3. Add the rice, mixing it with the garlic and oil.
  4. Stir frequently so it doesn’t get clumpy or too fried; 3–4 minutes for freshly cooked rice, 5–6 for day-old rice.
  5. Plate with the Spam and eggs.

For the Spam:

  • 3 or 4 slices of Spam, your call, cut into slices of your desired thickness, IDK what you can handle
  • You can even do them in shapes like fries, get festive
  • Cooking oil, not a lot since Spam can get too oily
  1. Heat a pan over medium heat, then heat the oil.
  2. Add the Spam to the pan and cook until the edges crisp and begin to turn brown, 3–4 minutes.
  3. Flip over for even cooking on both sides, 1–2 minutes.
  4. Remove from the pan and plate; if too oily, let drain on paper towels.

For the fried eggs:

  • Eggs, as many as you want. IDK, it’s Week 9 of this — live a little
  • Cooking oil, as much as you need
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Heat a pan over medium heat, then heat the oil.
  2. Add the eggs and salt them. Adjust the heat to low. Cook for 2–3 minutes for a runny egg yolk.
  3. Take them off the heat; the eggs will keep cooking in the pan for a minute or so.
  4. Add pepper if you like, then plate.

Best served warm with pandesal and a hot coffee (iced coffee, if you are gay). Enjoy!



Matt Ortile

Matt Ortile is the author of the essay collection The Groom Will Keep His Name. He is the managing editor of Catapult magazine and was the founding editor of BuzzFeed Philippines. He is a MacDowell Colony Fellow and has written for BuzzFeed News, Vogue, Condé Nast Traveler, Self, and Out, among others. He lives in Brooklyn.