The name Spam 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 in 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.
Several years ago, when the JCCA was looking to expand its menu at the Powell Street Festival salmon BBQ booth, Human Rights Committee member Tosh Kitagawa came up with the idea of selling Spam sushi. Given Spam’s history and its significance to the Nikkei community, 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 2010 and 2011 Festival, three sushi makers were assigned to each shift and were barely able to keep up with the demand, such was its popularity. In former years, we had an individual dedicated to slicing the spam, but this year, Hormel donated spam slicers which will effectively slice one can of spam into 9 equal slices with one stroke. The slices are marinated in equal parts of soya sauce and honey and then placed on the barbecue.
2012 marks the 75th Anniversary of Spam and The JCCA will be celebrating this historic year by once again selling Spam sushi along with the ever-popular salmon BBQ. Prices will be $3 for one piece.
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 honey
Mix honey and shoyu for marinade
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.