Hawaii, where girls sunbathe in bikinis, the sound of the ocean tide echoes across the island and SPAM is the big kahuna. Yep, you read that right. On the islands of paradise, SPAM is practically a food group of its own. The Hawaiians have elevated this rejected “poor man’s meat” to new culinary heights in island cuisine. In fact, SPAM is such a celebrated staple that in 2003 Hormel introduced a limited edition Hawaiian SPAM can. Many varieties of SPAM have been introduced as well including spicy SPAM, SPAM with bacon, turkey SPAM, smoked SPAM and SPAM with cheese. However, the island favorite is still the WWII-original SPAM.
So you’re probably wondering what SPAM is anyways. After all, movies like Monty Python have given SPAM a bad rap. Despite myths about SPAM being a mystery meat comprised of random animal parts, the pink brick-o-meat is actually made up of pork shoulder and ham with water, sugar, salt, potato starch and sodium nitrate for flavoring and to preserve color. With all these quality ingredients in a can it’s no wonder the Hawaiians love it so much. On the island, popular SPAM-tastic recipes include fried SPAM with eggs and rice (eaten for breakfast), SPAM fried rice, and SPAM-wiches (A grilled cheese sandwich with SPAM). Some of these dishes are so popular that even high-profile chains like McDonalds and Burger King offer them on their menus.
While these SPAM-a-licious recipes are good and all, none can compare to Hawaii’s best SPAM culinary innovation. Wait for it…SPAM SUSHI! I know right?!? Like what a freakin’ good idea. Who would have thought to take an already awesome thing, sushi, and make it even better by adding a salty fried piece of pork to it? Ingenious. In Hawaii SPAM sushi, or SPAM musubi as the locals call it, can be found in practically every restaurant and convenience store. The durability of the ubiquitous treat makes it an ideal choice for picnics on the beach. Its signature salty and unctuous flavor keeps locals and tourists alike coming back for more.
Unfortunately for many of us, the islands of Hawaii are but a distant dream. But don’t despair! Since SPAM is readily available at most grocery stores across the USA, you can re-create that island taste right in the comfort of your own pad. Now let’s get down to the dirty details.
In order to make SPAM musubi, you’ll need a can of SPAM, four sheets of seaweed or eight half-sheets, about 6 cups of cooked short-grain white rice (3 cups dry) and seaweed sprinkles (also known as furikake or rice seasoning). Furikake comes in a variety of flavors my favorite being kimchi. The last ingredient is optional. If you can’t find it at your local Asian convenience store, try ordering it online at Amazon.com or substitute toasted sesame seeds.
As for the tools, you’ll need a SPAM musubi press, a bowl of water, a paper towel and a sharp knife. I bought my SPAM musubi press online, but you can also use the SPAM can. Simply cut of the bottom of the can and use a spoon to press the ingredients down.
First you’re going to want to release the SPAM from the can. I found that it’s most effective to pop the lid and then slam the SPAM open side down onto a cutting board. As you lift the can up the SPAM should release. The whole wedging a knife into the can and wiggling the spam out sometimes cuts the SPAM and “ain’t nobody got no time for that.”
Once you get the SPAM out of the can, cut it longitudinally it into eight even slices. Now at this point some people like to marinate the SPAM in teriyaki sauce for 10-15 minutes. Personally I don’t do this, but you are more than welcome to.
Fry the SPAM on medium high heat in an even single layer. Immediately you’ll start to hear the SPAM pop and crackle and your kitchen will be filled with a heavenly aroma. Fry the SPAM for about 4-5 minutes on each side or until it is crispy and golden brown. Remove the SPAM slices and place them on a plate lined with a paper towel to absorb the excess grease.
SPAM musubi can be constructed in two different ways. The first is the lazy way where a slice of SPAM is slapped on a bed of rice and wrapped in seaweed. The second way, which is the RIGHT way, is where a salty and crispy slice of pink SPAM is sandwiched between two layers of fluffy white rice and enveloped in a crisp dark green sheet of seaweed (yeah, I’m a little biased towards the second way).
To make your first SPAM musubi, dunk your press into the bowl of water to keep the rice from sticking. Next use a wet rice paddle or spoon to take about a third cup of rice and press it into the mold. The goal is to get a half-inch thick layer of rice. (Note: If you’re going for the first way, you’ll need an inch of rice.)
Next sprinkle a layer of furikake on the bed of rice. Then take a glorious slice of SPAM and lay it down. (Note: If you’re doing it the first way skip to releasing the musubi.)
Now repeat what you just did, but in reverse order. Sprinkle a layer of furikake on the SPAM then add another third cup of rice to the mold and press everything down. With the press on the rice, slowly pull the mold upwards releasing the musubi.
On a dry cutting board, align the long side of the musubi with the short edge of a half sheet of seaweed. You’ll notice that the seaweed has a rough and shiny side. Place the shiny side down.
Tightly wrap the musubi in the seaweed. When all four sides are covered, a small flap of seaweed should remain. Simply wet your finger with water and run it along the flap then seal the musubi by folding the flap over. Rub the musubi with the fold side down to make sure the seal is tight.
Lastly, wet your knife with a damp paper towel and cut the musubi at a bias. Finally it’s time to dig in and savor the SPAM-tastic flavors. Just turn on some lazy tunes, close your eyes and in no time you’ll be transported to a luau on the island of paradise. Mahalo and please feel free to comment below!
Still need extra help making your SPAM musubi? Watch the video below.
Rex is a food-lovin’ college student who enjoys cooking almost as much as he does eating. When he’s not stuffing his face you’ll find him trippin’ over his two left feet on the ballroom floor. See the latest meal he has burned in his dorm on his blog Crazy Dorm Chef.