SPAM Sushi at the Powell Street Festival
SPAM. The name was coined in 1936 by a New York actor named Kenneth Daigneau as part of a contest held by George A. Hormel & Company, the producers of the product, to replace the original name, Hormel Spiced Ham. The rest is history.
Few foods are as polarizing as this canned meat that was developed in the mid-thirties and gained popularity throughout America during the austere years of World War Two. These days, the name itself is more commonly associated with Monty Python and unwanted email than the actual product, but over the years it has served as a low-cost source of protein for millions of people around the world. Indeed, nearly eight billion cans of Spam have been sold since its launch on July 5, 1937.
According to Wikipedia, residents of Hawaii, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands consume the most SPAM per capita in the United States. SPAM was introduced into these areas, as well as other islands in the Pacific such as Okinawa and the Philippines, during the US military occupation during World War Two. Since fresh meat was difficult to get to the soldiers on the front, World War II saw the largest use of SPAM. GIs started eating it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Surpluses of SPAM from the soldiers’ supplies made their way into native diets. Consequently, SPAM is a unique part of the history and effects of US influence in the Pacific.
In Hawaii, SPAM is so popular it is sometimes referred to as “The Hawaiian Steak.” One of the most popular ways to serve SPAM in Hawaii is SPAM musubi—cooked SPAM combined with rice and nori to create a bite-sized delicacy.
During World War Two, SPAM was also a staple in Japanese American internment camps such as Tule Lake and Manzinar.
When the JCCA was looking to expand its menu at this year’s Powell Street Festival, Human Rights Committee member Tosh Kitagawa came up with the idea of selling SPAM sushi. Given SPAM’s history, it seemed like a good fit.
Tosh contacted Hormel Corp. and was successful in receiving donations of SPAM, along with SPAM musubi presses, hats, aprons and publicity materials.
It was a hit. During the Festival, three sushi makers were assigned to each shift and were barely able to keep up with the demand, given its popularity. Another fourth person did all the slicing (10 slices per can), and another dipped the SPAM in the shoyu/sugar marinade and caramelized it on the barbeque.
The SPAM sushi sold at $3 for one piece or $5 for two.
Given the success of SPAM sushi at this year’s Festival, plans are afoot to include in future fundraising events.
The Greater Vancouver Japanese Canadian Citizens’ Association would like to thank Hormel Foods for their generosity.
You Will Need
Cooked short rain rice
1 can SPAM (regular) sliced into 10 pieces
Sheet of nori cut in half
¼ cup soy sauce (shoyu)
¼ cup sugar
Dissolve sugar in shoyu
Dip slices of SPAM in this mixture until well coated
Heat frying pan on medium heat
Fry the SPAM slices on both sides until they are caramelized
Transfer to a plate and keep warm
Lay nori on cutting board, long side perpendicular to you
Place musubi mold in the middle of the nori
Place a layer (about ¼ to ½ inch) of rice in mold and press with presser
Place 1 slice of SPAM on the pressed rice
Cover with another thin layer of rice and press firmly
Push sushi out of the mold and fold the nori firmly over it
Slice in half or leave whole
It is best not to overwhelm the SPAM with too much rice. You may sprinkle furikake on the top of the first layer of rice and on top of SPAM before putting the second layer of rice on the SPAM.
*What are SPAM musubi molds, and where do you buy them? The molds are generally clear acrylic and include the mold itself and a lid with handle used to press the ingredients. They can be purchased online (Google “SPAM musubi mold”) and at some Asian goods stores. Silicon molds are also available which solve the problem of the rice sticking to the mold.