Image Map

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Spam Musubi: Hapa Food

Spam Musubis are probably the most famous hapa food. Go into any self respecting Hawaiian food joint and it has a place on the menu. Go into any Japanese American market and you will see a nice tidy row of Spam, often with musubi makers right next to them.

Why is Spam so ubiquitous in Hawaii? Well during the World War II, it was difficult to transport fresh meat to the soldiers that were there on the Japanese/American war front.  Enter spam. Of course, surplus from the soldiers made their way into civilian kitchens.  Hawaii has a big Japanese American population, so its only natural that they would take the meat and use it in a way most familiar to them: wrapped up in nori and rice.

Now a lot of Americans look down on Spam as being a poor person's food, "mystery meat," trashy food, or generally disgusting canned meat.  Next time you hear someone denouncing Spam, ask them if they have ever actually tried it. Chances are, they actually haven't tried it but they are just parroting a stigma. They are like food racists! I just say don't knock it 'til you've tried it.

The key to Spam is grilling it. Sure you could eat it straight out of the can, but don't. The aspic (meat jelly) that surrounds it is amazing when grilled, but no thank you otherwise.

grilled to perfection
Spam Musubis are simple to make: plop the Spam onto a cutting board, cut into 8 slices, fry them up until they are nice and brown and crispy, and roll up with fresh rice and nori.  A lot of Spam musubi articles insist on a musubi maker, which is totally unnecessary in my opinion. I don't have a lot of space in my kitchen, so I make my musubi by hand, just like my onigiri. Looking at my pictures, some of my spam musubi don't have the super straight sides of the musubis made with makers, but that is easily fixed by focusing on that. (Why bother though?)

I made a couple of variations for fun, since I had some magic red sauce on hand from my recent adventure in downtown Los Angeles. There is another style of Spam musubi where the Spam is not sandwiched in the middle of rice but is on top. I like rice on both sides of my Spam so I can really slather it in sauce and the rice will soak up any extra, but feel free to experiment.  You can also put the teriyaki sauce in the pan while the spam is grilling, and I often do, but today I did not because I wanted to make a teriyaki free variation.
the ingredients!

Spam Musubi: Four Ways

1 can of SPAM
1 pack of nori
Shichimi Togarashi
hot chili oil (magical or other)
teriyaki sauce
cooked sticky rice (approx 3 cups for 1 can of spam)

traditional with/without furikake:
roughly spam shaped
the top layer before squeezing it
sprinkled with furikake
Slice the Spam into 8 equal slices and grill until brown and crispy on the outside, then set on a plate to cool. Take a sheet of nori and fold it down the middle to crack it and split into two pieces. Take one piece of the nori and lay about a small handful of warm rice in the middle. Wetting your hands with some water will help the grains from sticking to your fingers. Press the rice firmly into a spam shaped rectangle, adding rice if you feel it is not enough. Now is the chance to sprinkle a generous amount of furikake on top, or leave plain. Brush teriyaki sauce on both sides of the spam, then place on top of the rice. Place another small handful of rice on top of the spam and use your hands to compact it into a nice tidy rectangle. Wrap the nori tightly around the rice and spam and cut the whole thing in half.

Spicy Teriyaki Style:
teriyaki basted
Replace the furikake with shichimi togarashi powder, and baste teriyaki sauce on one side of the spam, and top the other side of the spam with red chili oil.

Spicy Style:
Replace the furikake with shichimi togarashi powder, and brush the spam on both sides with the red chili oil.

My mother was nice enough to help my blogging skills out and get me a camera! While blogging with an iphone camera is doable, it is nice to have a zoom and better quality photos. I guess now I need to stop blogging about her jello eccentricities... or make her some more to eat.
Shichimi below, spicy oil on top!
My new baby!

*Almost all of these pics have the annoying time stamp but don't worry I figured out how to turn it off. I'm not the most technologically advanced so that was a feat!

See Also:
Butter Mochi: Hapa Food
Furikake Chex Mix: Hapa Food


  1. I followed this over from Serious Eats.

    You've inspired me to try different forms of Musubi. I have some daikon kimchi in the fridge that might add a great crunchy layerif sliced very thin.


    1. hot damn that does sound good! Makes me want some spam kimchi musubi!

      I've also been wanting to try putting a Japanese style omelet between the rice and the ham. I think that'd be tasty too.

  2. Same as the person above, I saw your comment on Serious Eats. I'm glad to see you don't need a musubi maker, though I kinda want one! But yeah, a pretty specified kitchen thing to own. I can't wait to try some musubi! I never grew up on SPAM and probably have maligned it in my past, but the Asian uses for it look really good.

    1. Somehow this comment got stuck in blogger's SPAM filter so I am responding now that its no longer delegated as SPAM >.< I am bad at computers!

      I recently got a musubi maker as a little present from Mr. Mochi. I have to say it does make things neater and probably a little faster, and they are very cheap.

      The only downside: one more thing to wash!

    2. My husband loves this spam sushi. I put some pickled plums before folding and it really gives it fantastic, salty taste.
      I also use garlic spinach and put it in the roll before sealing it. Yummy!
      I also make a omelet with seaweed on it and cut into squares and top spam with it before rolling it.
      Many endless options when it comes to making these rolls. Enjoy!

    3. Technically, Betty, Spam musubi is not sushi. Sushi has to be made with sushi rice (made with seasoning and rice vinegar). This is a variation on the rice ball, called onigiri or musubi, and uses plain rice.

      Putting aside minor technicalities that only anal people like me even care about, I LOVE your musubi creativity. Thank you for sharing those ideas! I also make one with a tamagoyaki omelet, but the pickled plum tip is genius!

  3. had one today with one big fried egg on top...heaven...

    1. Fried eggs make everything better, but I think that rule especially applies to spam musubi and New Mexican stacked enchiladas!

  4. Ha! Miss Mochi, you are one hell of a whitified bitch-for-America Twinkie Banana.

    Hating on Spam isn't food racism (learn English you sellout). It is logical in view of the fact that it is eating pig snout, eyeballs, butttock, genitals, and brains all mashed into one. With lovely sodium nitrates (carcinogens) added.

    Many a returning Yank soldier died from diseases caused by their shitty diets while the Japanese civilians they bombed into a fiery hell everywhere from Naha to Hirosaki lived long, healthy lives because they didn't eat garbage. Love it!

    1. Thank you for reading my blog, and taking the time to comment!

      I do believe this is my first negative comment on this blog, I'm very excited. Even though this is an older post, I'm glad it is still being viewed.

  5. I'm writing about SPAM and would love to include some quotes from you- with links to your site. Could you contact me at nicmillerstale at yahoo dot co dot uk.