It has been called the "peanut butter and jelly sandwich of Hawaii". In other words, a comforting snack that seems so terribly wrong and yet somehow hits the spot. Spam? Sushi Rice? Seaweed?
Yes, yes, and YES - but let's not stop there. Let's add pureed kimchi (hot and spicy fermented Korean cabbage) and push this baby over the top while we're at it.
I am sure at this point there are probably a lot of wrinkled noses out there. I hear you - the first time I ever saw spam musubi was in Las Vegas working a fishing manufacturer's show (that's a completely different story). I was hungry and my feet hurt and if ONE MORE guy stopped by the booth to try to get another free sample of bait out of me ...
Suddenly a plump little saran-wrapped package was thrust into my hand by a little Japanese fellow. He didn't stop to explain, just handed one to each of us then unceremoniously unwrapped a package for himself and began happily munching away.
The plump little package was my first ever spam musubi, and the little Japanese fellow was my boss's brother, Al Yamamoto. I tentatively unwrapped the meat and rice bundle and looked to my boss's son, Derek Yamamoto, for help. Not surprisingly, he had his musubi halfway finished and was flagging down Al for another.
"What is this thing?" I asked. I could tell quite easily that it was spam and rice wrapped up in a bit of nori (the seaweed you see enveloping sushi rolls), but what, exactly, was it?
"Musubi!" Derek replied. "The only thing you need to know is that it's good and you're going to want another."
He was right. I knew I loved spam (who doesn't? if you don't, well, I just feel sorry for you) and I knew I loved sushi rice. I've never been a huge fan of nori, but Al had only used a small band of it to help hold the "package" together and the saltiness of it and the seared spam enhanced the sweet sushi rice.
This treat is a Hawaiian staple and so it made perfect sense that Al would drop by and share some with us. He and his brother (my boss) Gary, grew up in Hawaii.
The sad thing is, I've maybe had one or two spam musubi since that first introduction. And then I got a text from my good friends Jerry and Peggy Puckett who had just touched down in Hawaii for their Thanksgiving holiday. I suggested they write down all the cool foodie places they'd be hitting up (and if any of ya'll know the Pucketts, you know they know good food!) to tell me about when they got back, and then I wondered if they'd have the opportunity to enjoy some musubi.
And then as if the gods were smiling down on me, planets were aligning and my fate became something I was in complete control of (which I believe I am, by the way), I came across a recipe by Roy Choi (of the infamous Kogi Korean BBQ truck) in my December Food and Wine magazine: Spam-and-Kimchi Musubi. The article featured Roy's favorite food stops in Hawaii and handily they included some recipes as well.
Roy is a major mash-up artist when it comes to food. His food-truck is a magical place where Korean BBQ and Mexican make sweet, sweet love to each other and produce some incredible fusion food. The fact that he is Korean and embraces the spicy fermented goodness of kimchee only benefits us here, musubi fans.
I've included the exact recipe below as it appears in Food and Wine. However, as mentioned previously, I'm not huge on nori. I'll utilize it and enjoy it's saltiness in small quantities, but in this recipe Roy pretty much envelopes the entire musubi in nori and that was just a bit too much for me. If you like nori, please, follow the recipe as posted below.
I like to use little strips to secure the musubi, but then you are left with a slight problem. A benefit of using a bigger sheet of nori to envelope all of the musubi allows you to compress everything into a neat little package. That's harder to do if you're only using a little "strip" of nori.
So I'm including a link to a little video on how you can utilize the actual spam can (ha ha! spam can!) to help you form your musubi! Here is the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oNL5YTsEJno
Additionally, in Roy's recipe, he calls for using two pieces of spam and I like to stick to a single piece. This allows me to eat TWO spam musubi without feeling very much guilt ...
Important Note! You really must use sushi rice when making musubi. I use Nishiki. You need the stickiness of the sushi rice to keep everything together. Regular rice just isn't going to work. Roy doesn't mention it, but I like my sushi rice to be sweet, so after I cook it, I season it with rice vinegar (2 T), sugar (2 T) and salt (1 T). To make that easy, simply microwave the vinegar, sugar and salt to make sure everything is dissolved, then sprinkle over the sushi rice.
Another Important Note! When making the musubi, dip you hands and fingers in water before gathering up the sushi rice and mashing it into the can. It will make everything SO much easier.
Enjoy your Spam Musubi with Kimchi Puree responsibly and let me know how yours turns out!
Spam Musubi with Kimchi Puree
- 2 cups sushi rice, rinsed (important - rince until water runs clear)
- 1/4 cup kimchi
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- One 12-ounce can of Spam, cut into 8 slices
- Four 8-by-7 1/2-inch sheets of nori
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- Sriracha chile sauce
- 1 scallion, thinly sliced, for garnish
- In a large saucepan, cover the rinsed rice with 2 cups of water. Season with salt and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat for 17 minutes. Uncover and place a clean kitchen towel over the pot. Replace the lid and let stand off the heat for 10 minutes. Fluff the rice and let cool slightly.
- Meanwhile, add the kimchi and 1 tablespoon of water to a blender or mini food processor and puree.
- Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet. Add the Spam slices and cook over moderate heat, turning once, until browned, about 4 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
- Arrange 1 sheet of nori with the longer side facing you and rub with a little sesame oil. Mound 1/3 cup of the warm sushi rice on the bottom and pat into an 8-by-2-inch rectangle. Spread 1 scant tablespoon of the kimchi puree on the rice. Top with 2 slices of Spam and another 1/3 cup of the rice. Fold up the rice in the nori, pressing it into a rectangle. Repeat with the remaining nori sheets, sesame oil, rice, kimchi puree and Spam; there may be a little rice leftover. Using a sharp, moistened knife, cut each roll into 6 pieces, wiping the knife with a damp towel between slices. Arrange the musubi on a platter, dot with Sriracha, garnish with the sliced scallion and serve.