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January 2009



Infamous Spam

By Karen Yoneda

About four years ago on one of our visits to Hawaii when John’s brother gave us a souvenir, a 12 ounce *SPAM Collector’s Edition (which we still have), I often wondered about the origin of it. Since I was an infant when World War II ended and have no recollection of its history, my curiosity got the best of me.

What do you associate with the word Spam? In contemporary time, unwanted e-mail! However, SPAM, or spiced pork, is the invention of the Hormel Company going back to the Depression and World II when the military added this product to its rations. It is inexpensive, pre-cooked, delicious, easy to carry, ready to eat and requires no refrigeration. SPAM was quickly adopted by the Hawaii people, due in part to its distance from the continent and dependence on ships.

Although SPAM is sold internationally, Hawaii is the largest consumer of this product. SPAM has won the hearts and arteries of the people of Hawaii (which was pointed out in the 50th State kitchen at the Hawaiian exhibit at the Wing Luke Museum in Seattle.)

On the 12-ounce Collector’s Edition, I found the following SPAM Musubi recipe:

Lightly fry Spam. Shape cooked sushi rice to fit the slice. Place SPAM on top of its rice wrap. Enjoy.

I also located another tastier SPAM Musubi recipe in another cookbook which Jay Yoshizawa, a friend formerly of Maui, brought to a UH tailgate party:

1 cup water
1 can SPAM, cut into 8 pieces
4 T. soy sauce nori sheets cut in half lengthwise
2 T. sugar
1 T. mirin
Cooked rice

Mix water, soy sauce, sugar and mirin together on medium heat until it starts to boil. In another pan, fry SPAM and add enough of the sauce to almost cover the SPAM. Fry the rest of the SPAM until all the sauce is absorbed. Set aside to cool.

Make rectangular cakes of rice about the size of the SPAM, about one inch thick or as desired. (Acrylic SPAM musubi makers can be found at Long’s in Hawai`i.) Place rice cake in center of nori. Lay a piece of SPAM on rice and wrap nori up and around the rice-SPAM cake. Slightly dampen nori edges to seal.

Makes 8 pieces and for presentation, cut each diagonally across the rectangle.


After a hard day at the office, try Grandma’s Easy Chow Fun for dinner:

1 pkg. ready cooked chow fun noodles
½ cup diced SPAM
¼ c. green onions, chopped
1 pkg bean sprouts
2 T. oil
2 T soy sauce.

Heat oil in pan. Sauté SPAM, add bean sprouts. Mix in chow fun noodles and onions. Add soy sauce. This is quick and easy.


Back home in Hawaii, my family would have SPAM fried rice for an old time favorite at any time of the day:

Day old rice (2 cup serving)
1 can SPAM, sliced
4 scrambled eggs
soy sauce to taste
oyster sauce to taste
sesame seed oil to taste
Barbecue pork (char siu)
green onions

Heat a little oil in pan, add SPAM. Add rice and mix to incorporate SPAM. Add eggs; season to taste with the soy sauce, sesame seed oil and oyster sauce. Garnish with char siu and green onions.

As can be seen, SPAM can be used in many recipes. Try another called Summer Noodle Skillet (one dish)

8 oz medium egg noodles, boiled, drained
1 c. sliced onions
1/3 c. oil
1 can SPAM, diced
1 small head cabbage sliced
2 T. dark brown sugar
2 T. vinegar
2 T. butter
Coarse ground black pepper

Sauté onions in oil in large skillet. Add SPAM and cabbage. Cook uncovered for a few minutes or until cabbage is tender, stirring occasionally. Combine sugar and vinegar. Add to skillet with noodles, butter, and dash of pepper. Cover and heat until warm. Enjoy!


SPAM can also be eaten on sandwiches. Try SPAM and cheese. It is delicious and easy!

SPAM is truly an institution in Hawaii. My husband really enjoys SPAM for breakfast at McDonalds as well as Burger King, in Hawaii. I understand that Tamashiro Market in Kalihi has the best SPAM Musubi in the Isles. On our next visit, we have to go and try it! We also have to attend the SPAM Festival, which is usually scheduled April 30 in Waikiki. For anyone interested: visit the Hormel Factory in Austin, Minnesota and report back to us!


*Some purists insist that the correct spelling is SPAM (all caps) because it’s an acronym for Shoulder of Pork and Ham, but according to acronym-making rules, that name then should be SOPAH or SPH, neither of which sounds very appetizing. Perhaps it’s an acronym for Secret Pork And Mystery, but no one has suggested that. Others say SPAM stands for Spice and Ham, but if so, then the word is a blend, like brunch, and requires no capitalization. Besides, anyone who eats it knows that (other than salt) there are no spices in SPAM, which is why it’s so adaptable -kinda like tofu. I’m actually surprised that Hawaii hasn’t yet produced a famous recipe for SPAM Tofu because that would be so sublime, so yin – yang; two food products that when combined, would satisfy in perfect balance, then immediately cancel each other out in a variety of ways. If a reader has such a recipe, please send to Northwest Hawai`i Times. If not, perhaps Karen and I will have to develop one. Stay tuned. ~RdC  

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