Friday, August 21, 2009

UnRecipe: Mah-hollah for Statehood Day!

Happy golden anniversary, Hawaii! Fifty years ago, on August 21st, 1959, da islands of Hawaii were admitted to the union. Fifty years for the fiftieth state. This calls for a celebration -- let's eat Spam!

Hooray, hooray, it's Hawaii Statehood Day -- have a slice of Spam musubi! - Photo by Wasabi Prime

Yes, that's the Hawaiian flag. And yes, it's the only state flag to feature the Union Jack. Hawaii has the rare distinction of having previously been a kingdom under its own monarchy, as well as a British protectorate through the mid-1800s. Flash-forward, as a result of the strong WWII military presence and their love of environmentally-sealed rations, Hawaii got into the habit of being a big consumer of Hormel products, including that mystery meat of fear and loathing: Spam. Or as my mom likes to refer to it as Spare Parts, All Meat.

There's this misconception that people in Hawaii sit around eating food smothered in sugary teriyaki sauce and chunks of pineapple on everything. In all honesty, the local food of Hawaii is its own unique melting pot of cultural cuisine, a direct product of the various immigrants from China, Japan, Philippines, and even Mexico, all mixed together with the Native Hawaiian offerings. I didn't grow up there, but my whole family was born and raised there, so I had the good fortune to spend a lot of summers being immersed in what was really like another country. Hawaii is a food culture, and it deserves much more than a simple post about Spam, so I think I'll save that exploration for another day. But until then, I just really like Spam and I thought it would be amusing to do a post about the very native dish called Spam Musubi.

Simple steps toward comfort food nirvana - Photos by Wasabi Prime

Most people just make it at home, since the ingredients are pantry staples, but one can find Spam musubi swaddled in plastic wrap on the counters of restaurants for a quick purchase, the same that you'd find tuna salad or a turkey on rye. It's both a quick snack or a simple lunch. Filled with the naughty promise of sticky white rice sandwiching a pan-fried slab of Spam and wrapped in nori (seaweed), this Japanese-inspired treat is a mainstay of the locals. I've been known to bring it on an airplane in lieu of the soggy hamburger that I see most people smuggle in from the food court. Don't judge me, fellow airline travellers. You're just jealous you don't have ono kine grindz like mine.

You'll notice the plastic apparatus being used. It's a Spam musubi mold -- yes, for reals -- and you can buy it online, but if you're in Hawaii, you can usually find it at Longs Drugs store, the unofficial store of awesomeness for the locals. What I made was a quickie version of Spam musubi -- some people add a fried egg or a sprinkle of furikake -- I just went with the basic nori/Spam/rice combo in the interest of time. I did, however, make sure to pan-sear the slices of Spam. While one could consume the jiggly slab of meat straight from the oblong can, I'm not quite Spam-gangsta enough to do so, and I like a bit of pan-crusted goodness on my mystery meat products. You'll notice I purchased the 25% Less Sodium version of Spam. Kind of pointless, I know, seeing as how my heart will stop from the pau hana backup of solid pork fat, long before the hypertension sets in.

Hunger won out during the Spam musubi photo shoot. - Photos by Wasabi Prime

I wasn't the only one with Spam on the brain. My Island Homegirl cousin who now lives in Sweden reminded me of Statehood Day, sharing a great blog post by Tasty Island, called The Goteborg Musubi Project. Apparently, the Goteborg sausage being featured as a Kauai treat is an Americanized version of falukorv, a native Swedish sausage that's similar to Spam in its mystery meat-ness. I'll let the note from my cousin explain the provenance of falukorv: It is named falukorv for more sinister literal reasons...back in the day, Swedes mined copper and this is also how the falu-red paint was created, and used on barns and houses and is still used today on traditional cottages... Well back then in these mines, they used horses in the mines and they would get old and worn out--so they were used to make sausages when their usefulness in the mines was used up. So the mixture described in Hormel's Goteborg Sausage is according to Anders Stridsberg, not quite authentic, it should have been 75% horse and 25% pork probably, instead of beef. He said the sausage, falukorv is really saying it was horse sausage, since it came from the copper mines. The fact that falukorv is also usually shaped like a horseshoe makes it all the more bizarre and grisly.

Giddyup, horsie, or it's the falukorv factory for you! I kid, I kid -- I realize many countries have similar types of mystery meats, and they've all developed out of the same necessity, so I can dig on that. Let's bridge the gap between Sweden and Hawaii and celebrate our love of guilty pleasure meat byproducts! Happy Statehood Day, Hawaii. I hope Swedes raise a slab of falukorv in your honor!

* Post Script - Mahalo plenty to both Food Gawker and Serious Eats for posting photos of the glorious Spam Musubi. Thanks for showing Spare Parts, All Meat some good Aloha spirit!

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  1. You know what, My Dad loves SPAM. Anyone with hunting, camping, or military background probably does because the stuff keeps FOREVER. And it's Crazy Tasty to boot! Congrats to Hawaii and congrats to the rest of us who can enjoy a tasty meat treat!

  2. Great write-up. Thankfully Hormel's take on Goteborg includes just Beef and Pork, not HORSE! Ack!

    I noticed Marukai at Ward Farmers Market now carries Hormel Goteborg Sausage. Hormel needs to consider selling it in smaller quantities though. That big honkin' sausage is way too much for one sitting of Goteborg Musubi. You end up freezing the rest, which of course isn't ideal, but all you can.

    Regarding your musubi-making presentation, it's interesting that you put your SPAM in between 2 layers of rice, as most places here in the islands make their SPAM Musubi with the SPAM resting on top. Although there is a debate which speculates the ORIGINAL SPAM Musubi was made how you make it.

    I like the little Hawaiian Flag toothpicks. Where did you get those? Pretty cool.

    Check out comparison I did a while ago on TULIP vs. TREET vs. SPAM Musubi here....

  3. I wonder if it's a Big Island thing, sandwiching the Spam between the rice? It's how my mom makes it, and she's a Maui girl. I know it works well when you've got extra ingredients like egg or sausage, since it all gets nestled between the rice.

  4. Oh, forgot to answer the question -- duh -- the flags were just printouts from the internet, taped onto toothpicks. Note the crummy handiwork with the tape still sticking out on the tops!

  5. I love it! What a cool post. I love learning quirky things like this through food blogs- it makes my day complete. Today is my sister's birthday, too! I'll bet she had no idea she had the same birthday as the state of Hawaii! Love the recipe and photos as always- have a great weekend!

  6. Awesome.

    I'd like to officially request that you make Loco Moco next year! Mmmm... gravy and egg...

  7. Agreed, locomoco is ono grindz to da max! I don't need statehood day to inspire me -- it's great if you have extra hamburger patties!

  8. I live in Japan and though Japanese don't eat much spam, they have cute Spam TV commercials


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