When people think of sushi, sticky rice, crab meat and seaweed wrappers might come to mind. But Spam?
This meat-in-a-can is a sushi staple for Hawaiian cookbook author Muriel Miura. In fact, Miura recently came out with a new cookbook entirely devoted to the oft-derided pork product, Hawaii Cooks with Spam.
Her ode to Spam takes foodies around the world with recipes like Spam pancit from the Philippines, a Korean dish of Spam with rice and Spam tacos.
She also has dishes imported from the mainland, including a hearty casserole of rice, garlic and hot sauce called – what else? – Spambalaya.
Tastes Like Home
More Spam per capita is sold in Hawaii than anywhere else in the United States. Grocery stores in the Aloha State cater to their customers with a wide variety of the product: bacon Spam, turkey Spam, hot and spicy.
Miura recalls when she was first introduced to the processed meat.
She was a young girl in Honolulu when Pearl Harbor was bombed. During the war, the military shipped tons of Spam to Hawaii. It was cheap, kept well in the heat, and for Hawaiians, pretty soon it began to taste like home.
"This is the meat for everybody," says Miura. "It's the favorite meat source for people in Hawaii now."
Miura, who is Japanese-American, has her kitchen set up to demonstrate how she makes a maki sushi roll. Maki is sushi wrapped in a seaweed sheet, called nori. California rolls are a kind of maki that calls for crab. Miura's maki, however, uses around Spam.
"I have some steamed rice... seasoned with vinegar and sugar," says Miura. "Some homemakers add mirin, the Japanese sweet wine."
Miura covers the flat piece of nori with rice, and then coats the rice in mayonnaise. She says people in Hawaii put mayo on everything.
"And the Japanese like to have mayo with their cucumbers," she notes. Sliced cucumber is the next ingredient to go into her sushi roll, followed by spicy wasabi paste, and then, finally: "I put two strips of Spam right across," says Miura.
She rolls the ingredients together into a fat caterpillar of nori with all the ingredients inside.
Miura suggests that after slicing it up into rolls you say "Itadakimasu," which means "thank you for this meal" in Japanese.
The taste of Spam is not detectible in Miura's roll. An unwitting diner might think it was a chewy bit of avocado or maybe a very pink piece of egg.
To cleanse the palate afterward, Miura suggests a slice of pickled ginger. She says the roll can also be made with ginger inside, next to the Spam.
Spam with ginger and mirin with mayo on seaweed: They are less Japanese classics and more American hybrids.
Critics may say that Americans don't really live in a melting pot, but we sure do eat out of one.
hide captionHawaiian author Muriel Miura's new cookbook.
Courtesy of Mutual Publishing, Inc.
Hawaiian author Muriel Miura's new cookbook.
Courtesy of Mutual Publishing, Inc.
A recipe from Hawaiian author Muriel Miura's new cookbook Hawaii Cooks with Spam: Local Recipes Featuring Our Favorite Canned Meat.
Makes 8 to 10 rolls.
5 cups short grain rice
5 1/4 cups water
1 cup rice vinegar
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup mirin (sweet rice wine)
1 tablespoon salt
Wash rice and drain. Add water and let come to a boil; reduce heat to simmer and cook 5 to 8 minutes or until water level is reduced to level of rice. Cook an additional 7 to 8 minutes over low heat. Let steam, covered, 10 minutes before transferring to large, non-reactive bowl or large, shallow container.
Combine vinegar sauce ingredients; cook over medium heat until sugar dissolves; cool. Sprinkle half over hot rice and toss gently; add more sauce, if desired. Toss and fan rice to cool quickly.
Spam Nori Maki Sushi Roll
1 can (12 ounces) Spam, cut into 1/2 -inch strips and fried
1 jar tsukudani nori (flavored seaweed paste)
10 cucumber sticks, length of sushi nori
10 sheets sushi nori (seaweed)
1 recipe sushi rice
Place sheet of nori on sudare (bamboo mat) and align with edge nearest you. Using hand moistened with rice vinegar, spread 1 cup sushi rice evenly over 5 x 8-inch area leaving 2 inches nori at far end bare. Using a spoon or knife, spread sushi rice surface with tsukudani nori.
Arrange a cucumber stick 1 inch from edge nearest you, followed by Spam strip(s). Lift mat with thumbs; keep cucumber and meat in place with fingers, and roll mat over meat and away from you. When mat touches the rice, lift mat and continue to roll as you would for a jelly roll. Roll again in mat and apply slight pressure to tighten roll.
To serve, cut each roll into seven or eight pieces. Arrange sushi slices on platter, cut side up.