ARI SHAPIRO, host:
We now have a recipe for a savory snack, maybe even a last-minute addition to your Fourth of July picnic. The ingredients might surprise you, unless you happen to live in the Aloha State.
Here's NPR's Neva Grant.
NEVA GRANT: Promise you'll try to keep an open mind when you hear these words: Spam sushi.
Ms. MURIEL MIURA (Cookbook Author): Okay, here we are. Here we are. Let's look for Spam.
GRANT: I'm with cookbook author Muriel Miura in a Honolulu grocery store. More Spam per capita is sold in Hawaii than in any other state.
Ms. MIURA: Wow. They have quite a variety here. Look at that. They have bacon Spam, turkey Spam, hot and spicy.
GRANT: Miura is Japanese-American. She was a young girl in Honolulu when Pearl Harbor was bombed. In wartime, tons of Spam were shipped here, shipped everywhere by the military.
Ms. MIURA: …plastic, of course…
GRANT: It was cheap, it kept well in the heat, and pretty soon, in Hawaii, it began to taste like home.
Ms. MIURA: Definitely. It's the favorite meat source, I think, for most people in Hawaii now.
GRANT: Miura's new cookbook basically blows the lid off Spam, enshrines it in recipes from every corner of the world.
Ms. MIURA: Like Spam pancit, which is a Filipino dish. And we have (unintelligible), which is a Korean version of Spam and rice. And we have Spam tacos, Spam taco salad.
GRANT: Yes, lots of dishes imported from the mainland, including a hearty casserole of rice, garlic and hot sauce called - what else - Spambalaya.
Ms. MIURA: Okay, we're in the kitchen now and we're going to roll some sushi. And so I have steamed rice that has been seasoned with vinegar and sugar.
GRANT: She's making Spam maki sushi, which is rolled in that flat, dry seaweed nori - think California rolls.
Ms. MIURA: So I just put the sushi rice to cover most of the area of the nori. Then, you can put some mayonnaise and…
GRANT: Well, wait a minute. Mayonnaise? Yes, says Miura. People in Hawaii put mayo on everything.
Ms. MIURA: And the Japanese like to have mayonnaise with the cucumbers.
GRANT: Which is what she adds next to the sushi roll, then spicy wasabe paste, and, of course…
Ms. MIURA: Two strips of Spam right across. Then, you need to place your hands on the Spam to hold it in place and just roll away from you like you would jelly roll. And then just give it a nice squeeze.
GRANT: And you have a fat caterpillar of nori with all the ingredients inside. After you slice it and before you eat it, you could say…
Ms. MIURA: (Foreign language spoken)
GRANT: …which roughly means thank you for this meal in Japanese.
Ms. MIURA: Would you like to taste the sushi with chopsticks? Of course, huh?
(Soundbite of laughter)
GRANT: Can I take this whole big chunk?
Ms. MIURA: Sure. Here you go.
GRANT: And, you know, the sushi roll is tasty.
Ms. MIURA: It's great with green tea.
GRANT: And whether you love Spam or hate it, frankly, you can't really taste it in this robust mix of flavors. If you didn't know, you might think the Spam was a chewy bit of avocado or maybe a very pink piece of egg. And if you feel like cleansing your palette afterwards, just as you would after eating raw fish, Muriel Miura says go right ahead and have a pink slice of pickled ginger. That's what it's for.
Ms. MIURA: The other thing you could do if you really like ginger is to put the ginger into the center, right next to your Spam.
GRANT: And really, why not? Spam with ginger, mayonnaise on seaweed - we're Americans. Critics say we don't really live in a melting pot, but on the Fourth of July, and on any day, really, we sure do eat out of one.
Neva Grant, NPR News, itedakimasu.
(Soundbite of music)
SHAPIRO: If you want it, the recipe for Spam sushi is online at npr.org.