Tuesday, March 3, 2009

How to Make Spam: Girl Scout Version

Green Eggs & Spam...kind of.

"I do not like green eggs and ham.
I do not like them, Sam-I-am."

You may recognize these words, spawned from the childhood staple by Dr. Seuss. While I'm all for the color green, today's activity does not involve green eggs. Or eggs, for that matter. Instead, I summoned up my inner Girl Scout and conjure up spam musubi without using a musubi maker.

Background: Spam is a familiar canned precooked meat produced by Hormel Foods Corporation. The classic variety of spam is made of chopped pork with ham added, salt, water, sugar and sodium nitrite to retain its (pink blob of a) color. Spam was created in 1937 and became a war-time staple in the U.S. during World War II when fresh meat was difficult to obtain. It especially caught on in Okinawa and the Philippine Islands and was even integrated into the local diet.

Spam musubi (pronounced moo-soo-bee, with no accent) originated in Hawaii and is modeled after Japanese onigiri (rice balls). In essence, it is made with nori as its base, pressed rice, sliced spam, another layer of rice, then everything pressed and rolled up tightly into a rectangular wedge. It's essential that the spam musubi be pressed compactly -- otherwise, it will crumble when you take a bite.

For those of you who can't imagine spam being anything near a delicacy, you must first understand that Hawaiians have a long-time love affair with spam. They eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner, putting it in soup and stews. More than four million cans of Spam are consumed every year, and this just from Hawaii!

Sliced spam. Not cut with butter knife pictured.

Okay, so you're up on the history of spam musubi. Now you're probably thinking: How is it even possible to make spam musubi without the musubi maker? (It's all sold out on Amazon, as we speak.)

Ghetto musubi maker substitutes.

With this!

I scrounged up two soap dishes, which can easily be bought at your local dollar store. Next, I covered them with Saran wrap and aluminum foil, so as not to get any soap residue in my digestive tract (ew, gross). Above: I used the green soap dish as the top, to press the musubi down. You need a smooth edge to do that. Its partner-in-crime, the foil-masked dish, plays stand-in for the rice mold. In case you were wondering, that flaky green stuff in the back is nori. Hey, never promised this was a mess-free dish.

Click on the title for the Serious Eats' spam musubi recipe that I followed, which relies mostly on improvisation, but you can also check out a more structured version here.

Naked Spam: Up close and personal.

Even though it was originally known as "poor people food," I see spam as a yummy treat that combines the natural saltiness of spam and soy sauce with the sweetness of carmelized sugar and the crunchiness of nori. The hot rice absorbs any additional saltiness.

Jasmine tea to wash it all down.

From an economical perspective, a can of spam cost me $2.50 at H mart, 8 slices of nori cost $.75 each, 3 cups of short-grained rice cost something like $1.50. TOTAL: $4.25. Feeds four. That's about a buck apiece! Just add some vegetables on the side and you've got a meal.

Enough gushing from me -- go try some spam musubi for yourself! Dang, I should've just called this entry "Spam: A Tribute."

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