Spam is very popular in Hawaii, dating back from its widespread use in World War II. In fact, spam is consumed more per capita in Hawaii than in any other state, and is even served at McDonald’s and Burger King there. This little dish also doesn’t carry the “poor people’s food” stigmatism that it enjoys in the rest of the US. Spam musubi is a variation of Japanese onigiri (rice balls wrapped in nori seaweed) and is a common snack in Hawaii; I personally lived off of them for years. We would often sneak them into our pockets for UH football games and take them on plane trips to the mainland. Ah, memories.
Now that we’ve been living in the Baltimore/DC area for the past couple years, our only shot at getting our hands on spam musubi is making it at home. Luckily my wife is awesome and can make it with her eyes closed. To capture the authentic Hawaii taste you’ll need Aloha brand shoyu (which contains soy and wheat) as well as mirin (sweet rice wine, which is hard to find without corn syrup nowadays) so I’m labeling this as an “official cheat meal”. You could definitely try it with tamari to eliminate the wheat, or coconut aminos to also eliminate the soy, but the taste may be compromised. Also, keep a look out for mirin without corn syrup, which you can find at some Japanese grocery stores.
Interestingly, spam is paleo-friendly; its ingredients consist mainly of pork products and potato starch. It is, however, loaded with sodium and nitrites, so you’ll definitely want to eat it sparingly, look for the lower sodium version, and drink lots of water! (I sound like my mother.)
Also, you’ll need a onigiri/musubi mold, which you can find on Amazon for relatively cheap.
1 can low-sodium spam
3 cups white, short-grain rice, cooked and lightly salted
1 cup low-sodium Aloha shoyu
1 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp natural sugar
3-4 sheets nori seaweed, cut into widths equal to the length of spam (about 4″)
Slice the can of spam into 1/4-inch thick slices. You should be able to make 10 slices with one can.
On med heat, pan-fry the spam on each side, enough to brown them but not too much so you don’t dry them out.
Combine the shoyu, mirin, and sugar in a bowl and add the cooked spam into the mixture, letting it soak for 5 minutes. Rotate the pieces so they get equal amounts of time in the sauce.
Fill a bowl with cold water, which you will dip the musubi mold into (as well as your fingers, to prevent them from sticking to the rice).
On top of a piece of nori, put some rice into the mold and press it down. Then add the spam, and push it down with the press as well. While pushing down on the press, lift the outer mold out.
Wrap the nori around the musubi. Dab a little water onto the nori to seal the two ends together.
You can then cut them in half and wrap them in plastic wrap, or enjoy them as-is. They should keep in the fridge for a few days, and can be easily reheated in a microwave. You can also experiment with different variations: a couple popular ones are rice-spam-rice combo, or the famous double spam attack. Yeah, I just made that name up.