Pop-up Hungry as F*ck ‘is going to explode your heart’ with deep-fried Spam musubi and other takes on Hawaiian classics | Bleader

Pop-up Hungry as F*ck ‘is going to explode your heart’ with deep-fried Spam musubi and other takes on Hawaiian classics

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Amy Lecza (left) and Kelly Ijichi at Hungry as F*ck's first pop-up dinner
  • Amy Lecza (left) and Kelly Ijichi at Hungry as F*ck's first pop-up dinner
This Sunday the pop-up dining series Hungry as F*ck will take over Kimski—a Bridgeport restaurant that normally serves Korean-Polish street food—for its Hawaiian-inspired Ono Brunch. Organizers Amy Lecza and Kelly Ijichi are creating takes on Hawaiian classics that include butter mochi, kalua pork, lomi-lomi salmon, and ube pancakes. It's their third event, but the first that isn't ticketed, which opens it up to a wider audience. "Anyone off the street, anyone that typically goes to Kimski for brunch will see us and eat our food," Ijichi says. It's also the first event where they'll be serving deep-fried Spam musubi—but in a way, that musubi is what led to the series in the first place.

The pair met last year at Parachute, where Ijichi was a sous chef and Lecza was doing an internship for culinary school. "We both worked early mornings, so there were many mornings when we were playing Beyonce really loud in the kitchen and prepping for the day and talking about all the dumb food we wanted to make," Lecza says. "Sushi rolled in Cheetos dust and Spam musubi and Jell-O pudding pops—but like, really good. Eventually we were like, 'We should look into making this happen.'"

Deep-fried Spam musubi - KELLY IJICHI
  • Kelly Ijichi
  • Deep-fried Spam musubi

Around that time a friend of theirs was biking past Read It & Eat, a culinary bookstore in Lincoln Park, and noticed that it had a kitchen and would host food events. Last November Hungry as F*ck debuted with Fall as F*ck, a seven-course meal for 25 people in the space. "We wanted to do something very challenging for our first event," Ijichi says. In March they did a collaboration with Knox Ave Barbecue, an Austin-style barbecue company that a friend of theirs from Parachute started, which also took place at the bookstore. "We called it the End of the World Hip-Hop BBQ because it took place shortly after the inauguration, when everyone was feeling like the end was imminent," Lecza says. That's also when they decided to add a philanthropic component, donating a portion of the proceeds to the ACLU of Illinois's Roger Baldwin Foundation.

The move to Kimski for Sunday's event was the result of a conversation with Won Kim, the restaurant's chef. Kimski began as a pop-up series itself before settling into the expanded Maria's Packaged Goods and Community Bar last year, and according to Lecza, Kim likes having a chance to give other chefs a leg up. "He told us a lot of people [in the industry] helped him when he was coming up, and he wanted to help us out too," she says.

As for the Hawaiian theme, Ijichi says that while all of their menus have had an "Asian backbone," there's no other uniting factor among the themes of their meals. Neither chef is an expert in Hawaiian food, but Ijichi has visited the state a couple of times and is Japanese. "A lot of [Hawaiian] cuisine has similarities with Japanese food," she says. "I grew up eating Spam musubi at every family event; my mom makes it. A lot of people aren't familiar with Spam, or they're grossed out by it. This is a really absurd take on it, but something I think people will really enjoy." The Spam gets a teriyaki marinade before it's surrounded in rice, then gets a coat of tapioca starch and panko breadcrumbs and is finally deep-fried. "It's pretty quality health food," Lecza says. It'll be served with a "secret sauce" similar to a spicy mayo.

Sweet corn and buttermilk biscuits, which will be served on Sunday with yuzu kosho butter and sweet pepper relish - AMY LECZA
  • Amy Lecza
  • Sweet corn and buttermilk biscuits, which will be served on Sunday with yuzu kosho butter and sweet pepper relish

Passionhouse Coffee Roasters is providing coffee for the brunch, and Maria's will be open to serve boozy drinks. Ijichi and Lecza will also be collecting feminine hygiene products and cash donations for the Chicago Period Project, which provides tampons, pads, and other necessities to women living below the poverty line in Chicago; anyone who makes a donation will be entered into a raffle to win "a bag of special treats, which is another secret," Lecza says.

They expect to continue the pop-ups more or less quarterly, as their day jobs allow. (Lecza is currently a content marketing director for a small PR agency, while Ijichi is the executive chef at AceBounce Ping Pong Bar & Restaurant.) Both say that Hungry as F*ck is their outlet to do whatever they want. "We've both cooked for other people—their recipes, their food," Lecza says. "But this is very much us. It's a really freeing moment to realize that if we want to pepper our menu with profanity, we absolutely can. If we want to make a deep-fried Spam musubi that is going to explode your heart, we're going to do it."

Ono Brunch Sun 8/13, 11 AM-3 PM, Kimski, 960 W. 31st, 773-890-0588, kimskichicago.com.

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