By: Claire Fitz-Patrick, MyRecipes.com Contributor
As the warmth of spring (finally) begins to appear here in New York, I find myself thinking of my family. Warm weather is their norm. They wear their shorts and short-sleeve shirts, not even thinking to check the weather forecast before they leave the house. Lucky for me, I grew up in Hawaii. Lucky for them, they still live there. After my bitterness subsides, my thoughts often go to things, other than the weather, that I miss about “home”. Lately, those thoughts have been about local “grinds” (read: yummy food); in particular, Spam Musubi. As I’ve learned over the years, my fellow “mainlanders” (read: people from the continental US) seem to have an aversion to Spam. To that, I tell them, “You must not have ever had a Spam Musubi.”
To help explain just what is the joy and wonder of Spam Musubi, I asked my best friend’s mom, “Aunty Lindy”, to help me out. Aunty Lindy is a local foods expert. Her love of cooking has led her to create hundreds of delicious recipes, all with a local Hawaii flair, that she shares on her website, Lindy’s Ono Recipes. If you’re in Hawaii, you can often catch her at craft fairs across the island selling her super cute recipe cards. And, if you’re not in Hawaii, you can order online here!
What exactly is a Spam Musubi?
Spam has been popular in Hawaii for a long time. Back in the day, we had to stretch our dinners and lunches. Spam was cheap and we could do a lot with just one can.
I can’t remember the exact year that Spam Musubi became our “go-to potluck dish”, but it was in the early 80s. People say a store-owner, Mitsuko Kaneshiro, invented it and it just caught on after that. The key ingredients are Spam, rice and nori (seaweed). The most traditional way to prepare Spam Musubi is to take cooked white rice, top it with fried Spam and cover it all with a strip of nori to create one yummy bite!
How do you get Spam Musubi into its rectangular shape?
I remember when it first got popular I actually used the Spam can (cutting off the top and bottom of the can) as a mold. Later, acrylic molds were made. I was so intrigued and excited about this that I actually designed and ordered my own mold through a company called PlexiGlass. When I get excited about something I like to buy a lot and share with my family and friends – which I did. I’m not sure if any of them still have theirs, but I still have my durable mold from 30 years ago that I use all the time!
Using an acrylic mold to shape the musubi.
When do you eat Spam Musubi?
I can eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or just a snack! Spam Musubi is a huge staple for potlucks, picnics, sports events, etc. Kids, as well as adults, all love to eat it. Spam Musubi is similar to a finger food. Since it is onolicious (delicious) even at room temperature, it’s a portable snack you can grab and munch on anytime. When my family and I travel I usually make some Spam Musubis to eat on the plane. Just make sure you’re ready to explain what it is at security; my Spam Musubi got me stopped once!
What is your favorite way to prepare/season your Spam Musubi?
I enjoy the Teriyaki style flavor when making my Spam Musubi. When frying the Spam I add 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon mirin, a touch of grated ginger and about 1-2 teaspoons chopped garlic. This is all to taste; you can either lessen the sauce or add more. You can also add some chili pepper flakes or Togarashi (Japanese chili pepper flakes) if you like spicy.
Getting ready to season the Spam and the Spam frying away.
For the rice, I like to season it two ways. 1. Plain white rice with sprinkle of furikake (Japanese seasoning condiment that can be found in most specialty stores) before adding the fried Spam.
Building the Spam Musubi with layer of furikake seasoning.
2. White rice mixed with Ochazuke Wakame (dried seaweed & tiny balls of rice cracker which are normally used for adding to rice and hot water for a Japanese porridge type dish) and some Nametake mushrooms (which are seasoned with soy sauce). This adds so many flavors to the rice so no furikake is needed. I get a lot of praises when I use this version with the rice.
And, important question… where do you put your Spam? Middle (between the rice) or on top (next to the nori)?
I always put the Spam in the middle between the rice. This helps in 2 ways: 1. It gives you a good bite of both rice and Spam. If the Spam is just on the top, then sometimes you end up eating the Spam and are left with just extra rice. Another reason is that I find when you season the Spam, having it in the middle won’t wet the nori wrapped around the Musubi with the sauce, which can make the nori soggy.
Any other Spam Musubi tips?
I wrap the Spam Musubi with plastic wrap and overlap the end doubling it so it’s easy to unwrap. Lots of times people can’t see the end of the wrap and struggle to get it open!
Wrapped Spam Musubi ready to go!
After reading this, I hope you’re all excited to pick up a can of Spam at the grocery store this week to try your hand at making Spam Musubi. If deciding how to season your Musubi seems daunting, keep an eye out for Teriyaki SPAM. They’ve done all the work for you! I tried it myself and could hardly tell the difference between my own seasoned version and the Teriyaki Spam version. I like to control my own seasoning though so will probably stick to the original Spam, but if you want an easy way to save some steps and ingredients, definitely give it a try!
And, for those of you feeling super Spam-inspired, check out these recipes featuring Spam in other delicious ways: