Spam musubi

I had grown up eating Spam (Spam is very popular in the Filipino culture), but I didn't learn about about Spam musubi until college when some friends made it and brought it to a picnic.

Before the COVID19 pandemic, B and I had never made spam musubi. During the pandemic, we were making it every other week!
Spam rose to prominence in WWII. American military was deployed to the Pacific, and wherever American troops went, Spam followed. With food shortages from the war and the US rebuilding in other countries, Spam became a symbol of American generosity in helping feed people as well as a reminder of immense suffering. Spam became a necessity for survival for many local residents in the Pacific islands due to food rationing and restrictions during the war (source).

Unfortunately it also has a stigma of being a poor person's food, and I remember being made of for eating "mystery meat" as a kid when I ate it for lunch (I was the only Asian kid in the entire grade!). I didn't appreciate the cultural significance and my family identity until I went to college and became involved in our Filipino community. 

I'm glad it's become more popular because despite its humble origins, it's really delicious (and I normally dislike very processed foods, but Spam is the exception).
People often think Spam musubi was invented in Hawaii. Hawaiians consume almost 7 million cans of Spam annually - the nation’s highest per capita consumption - and a most of it is spam musubi.

The history is darker - Spam musubi's origins can be traced back to the Japanese internment camps. More than Japanese 120,000 people living on the West Coast were imprisoned during World War II. Spam was widespread, so they crafted a "Spam sushi," placing Spam on white rice in a baking pan (source).
We sear the spam plain as it already has a lot of flavor and then pair it with a sweet unagi sauce. The unagi sauce also helps bind the seaweed so it doesn't fall apart. The sushi vinegar and unagi sauce from Outdoor Chef Life, one of B's favorite youtube channels to watch for unique cooking.

You can buy spam molds, but we have limited kitchen space and try to avoid buying too many uni-purpose items. We use saran wrap and the spam can itself to make the musubi (tutorial here).
B prefers the traditional spam and rice combination, but I love it with scrambled eggs. Spam and eggs is just such a comforting combination since it reminds me of my childhood when we visits my grandparents' homes in the Philippines. Enjoy!

Spam Musubi


Ingredients
SUSHI VINEGAR
1/3 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon mirin

SPAM MUSUBI
1 cup uncooked short-grain white rice
water for 1 cup rice (as per rice cooker)
sushi vinegar (recipe above) or sushi rice vinegar mix
1 (12 ounce) can Spam
3 sheets sushi nori (dry seaweed)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

UNAGI SAUCE
1/2 cup mirin
1 1/4 Tbsp sugar
1/8 cup soy sauce

Directions
SUSHI VINEGAR
Combine vinegar, sugar, salt, mirin in a bowl and set aside.

SPAM MUSUBI
In your rice cooker, cook 1 cup rice. In a bowl, mix it with sushi vinegar to make sushi rice.

Slice spam lengthwise into 7-8 slices. On a medium pan over medium heat, heat oil. Cook slices for 2 minutes per side, or until lightly browned.

Cut nori sheets into thirds and set aside. Line your spam can with a large square of plastic cling wrap. Add rice to the bottom, 1 inch thick, then top with your browned spam. Lift the plastic cling wrap and remove the spam and rice as one piece from the spam can. Place the spam and rice piece on top of your nori strip. Brush the unagi sauce on the inner side of the nori; wrap nori around the space and rice.  Another option is to use a spam musubi mold, which you can find on amazon.

Musubi may be served warm or chilled.

UNAGI SAUCE
On a small pan on medium heat, combine mirin and sugar until dissolved and hot but not boiling. Add soy sauce then turn it too low. Reduce until thickened. When assembling your spam musubi, you might have to reheat the unagi sauce over the stove as it thickens quickly when cooled.

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