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Hawaii’s Love Affair with SPAM

It’s no secret that Hawaii loves SPAM. We have the largest consumption per capita of SPAM. Visitors are surprised to find it as sushi (the ever popular SPAM musubi). You can find it at the annual SPAM Jam block party in Waikiki. You can even find SPAM, eggs, and rice as a popular breakfast item at McDonald’s restaurants in Hawaii!

How did it get here in the first place?

SPAM was first introduced to Hawaii during World War II as a wartime staple, when it was important to have canned meat products with a long shelf life that didn’t require refrigeration. Even after the war, many families grew up cooking with SPAM. Always popular as a breakfast item, people often snacked on SPAM sandwiches (SPAM, white bread, and mayo) or sliced it up into stir-fry or as a topping for bowls of noodles, like saimin.

I remember when I went off to college on the mainland, two things I missed the most were rice and SPAM. So I decided to kill two birds with one stone and I made up a big batch of SPAM fried rice. My roommates gathered around once I started cooking (and didn’t see the SPAM can) so they were anxious to try it. I dished up bowls for everyone and even seconds for some! Only after all the dishes had been cleared did I tell them what they’d eaten. They were shocked, and converted! It may be mystery meat, but it’s salty meaty goodness, and I swear it’s delicious. Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it.

>> Looking for more SPAM recipes?
>> There are even whole cookbooks written about SPAM!

SPAM musubi

This one turned even Andrew Zimmern off. First off, please don’t call it “SPAM sushi” – it’s called a SPAM musubi, pronounced MOO-soo-bee, with emphasis on the first syllable. A piece of SPAM is cut, sometimes marinaded in a shoyu (soy sauce) and sugar mixture, fried, and then packed onto a bed of rice and wrapped up with nori. If you’re on Maui or Oahu, Da Kitchen has a famous version that’s deep fried. 7-Eleven stores all over the state carry SPAM musubis that are great on the run, and will only set you back a little over a dollar. For breakfast, look for versions with a slab of scrambled egg as well. Delish!

>> Here’s a great tutorial of how to make a Hawaiian-style SPAM musubi.

Bringing home the SPAM

Head to any grocery store in Hawaii and you’ll find variety’s of SPAM that you never knew existed – SPAM lite, SPAM with cheese, SPAM with tabasco, and more. You may even find SPAM flavored macadamia nuts. (Then you can really say you’ve gone nuts for SPAM.) If nothing else, it’s sure to get a good laugh out of most folks.

SPAM Jam Waikiki

The 9th Annual SPAM Jam takes place in Waikiki on Saturday, April 30, 2011, from 4pm to 10pm. The event closes down Waikiki’s main strip, Kalakaua Avenue, and features food booths, two stages of entertainment, games for the whole family, and of course a chance to bring home SPAM merchandise to your friends and family back home. And best of all, the event benefits the Hawaii Food Bank.

>> Find details about the event here.
>> Read on for more things to do in Hawaii in April.
>> More on Drinking and Dining in Honolulu.
>> More of What to Eat in Hawaii: Famous Hawaiian Foods
>> Looking for something more authentic? Read more about Traditional Hawaiian Foods.