Monday, October 29, 2012

Spam Musubi

Spam is one of those polarizing ingredients.  You say Spam, and people automatically think, Yuck, mystery meat, fake food.  And if you've ever eaten it cold, you probably scrolled right past this post.  But I am here to tell you one thing:  Americans created Spam, but Asians perfected it!  Your Korean, Chinese, and Hawaiian friends know something you don't - you can make magic with Spam if you treat it right.

The first thing to know about Spam is it is not ham.  You can't eat it like lunchmeat on a sandwich.  I mean, you can, and when the zombie apocalypse comes, if I can't heat it, I'll just eat it.  But really, it needs to be pan-fried for its best qualities to become apparent.  My favorite way of eating it is fried, with a few drops of sesame oil, and lots of pepper, with hot rice and kimchee.  My second favorite way of eating it is in Spam musubi.

Musubi is a Hawaiian original.  They are bundles of rice and meat, wrapped tight in seaweed (known as nori, when it's a flat sheet.)  They are everywhere in Hawaii, sold in supermarkets, gas stations, and convenience stores.  They are like an island energy bar!  And the best and most popular kind are made with Spam.

You'll need a package or nori, found in Japanese or Korean markets, and also in many grocery stores.  I also like to season the rice with a Japanese concoction called Furikake.  Furikake is salt, sugar, seaweed flakes, sesame seeds, and MSG.  If you can't find it, or you're allergic to MSG, you can season the rice with sesame seeds and salt.  Also, be sure you use short-grain, sticky Cal Rose style rice, not the Uncle Ben's long-grain kind, or it won't stick together like it should.

This is definitely one of those whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-the-parts recipes.  So simple, yet satisfying, snacky, salty, and delicious.  I challenge you to eat just one!

Spam Musubi

  • 1 can Spam (I used the Low Sodium kind, because it can be pretty salty.)
  • 1 package nori sheets
  • several cups cooked sticky rice
  • furikake or sesame seeds and salt
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (any kind, or honey)
  1. Use leftover fresh rice, or cook up a batch.  I've been using half white rice and half brown rice.  Set it aside and let it cool a little so you don't burn your hands.
  2. Remove Spam from can.  Don't chicken out now!  Cut it into 8 slices, lengthwise.  They should be about 1/4 - 1/2-inch thick.  
  3. Mix the soy sauce and sugar in a little bowl.  Fry the Spam slices in a non-stick pan, about 4 minutes on one side.  Let them get crispy!  When you flip them, drizzle the soy / sugar mix on them.  Again, let the slices get crispy, then remove from heat.
  4. To assemble:  cut a sheet of nori in half and lay it in the bottom of a small rectangular container.  I'm sure you have a Tupperware container that would be perfect for this!  Other people recommend using a can opener to remove the bottom of the Spam can, and using this as a mold for your musubi.  That seems like a lot of trouble to go to.  I suppose if you were concerned with making them perfectly uniform, go ahead, but the prettiness of the wrap job does not affect the taste.  Anyway, lay a half-sheet of nori in the container you're using, and spoon some rice on top - about 1/4 to 1/2-cup.  Press it down so it sticks to the nori.  Shake some furikake on there, or sesame seeds and a little salt and maybe a pinch of sugar, and then place a Spam slice on top.  Most people finish with another scoop of rice.  Sometimes I do, sometimes I just close it up then. 
  5. Push down on the rice and Spam, either with the back of a spoon, or with a smaller container, just to make sure it's compact and won't unravel on you.  Wrap the nori around and seal with a few grains of rice, or wet your finger in water to seal up the edge.  
At this point, you can either eat one while you make more (which is what I always do), or if you're not going to eat them right away, wrap each one in plastic wrap.  I would say this recipe feeds four, two musubi per person, but if you love them like I do, you'll be hard-pressed to share!


  1. I make these all the time for my kids! Very tasty treat or dinner with veggies! I use a bamboo roller and lay a full sheet of nori, and two spam pieces. Then I spread the rice leaving about 1-2 inch on the top. Then I roll around the spam and press. Usually the heat from the rice and spam will seal the nori.
    xo Susan

  2. Yum, Susan! Next time I'll try rolling it. I've also made kimbap with Spam, cut into strips. Kimbap is like Korean sushi, same technique with the bamboo roller, nori and rice. Who knew that Spam and seaweed were such a winning combo?!?