Spam Part I: Fried Saimin!

Well look who’s back to the blog, even after the end of my 3-week blogging stint, which was 3 weeks of sleep deprivation and “working really hard” at my computer in the staff room during the weekdays (though to be fair, not every weekday!). I thought I was really looking forward to a break, but Saturday morning rolled around and I went straight into “What’s today’s blog topic?” Autopilot. As I scanned my apartment for available food, it came to me easily–I’d write about brunch! But, not just any brunch… no, this was to be a special brunch. So special that it really did deserve its own post. This morning I decided to cook a hearty meal with none other than my beloved luncheon meat of yore: spam!

Spam, or SPAM® as it is trademarked by Hormel Foods, is the most well-known of the preserved, pre-cooked meats in a can (so much that at least for people from Hawaii like me, the name Spam becomes equivalent to all canned luncheon meats; kind of the way we’ve grown to call adhesive bandages of all brands “band-aids”). Although spam  is widely looked down upon and made fun of in mainstream American culture–criticized as a “mystery meat” of unknown makeup, or classified as “poor man’s food” and associated with lower class and/or less refined people–anyone growing up in Hawaii is basically brought up on the stuff, no shame behind it. Spam was popularized in the Hawaiian islands at large during WWII, when military personnel consumed the meat in bulk due to its convenience (didn’t spoil in the warm weather as it came in a can) and inexpensiveness (compared to fresh meat, which was also harder to come by). In fact, for the exact same reason of a history of American military presence, Okinawa loves spam just as much as Hawaii does! Bits of spam (or “pork” as they refer to it here) are thrown into stir-frys, soups, and just about anything. As with Hawaii, spam is perceived as tasty and normal in the Okinawan islands, but generally stigmatized on mainland Japan.

My personal opinion on spam? I like the taste of it (it holds a lot of nostalgia, that’s for sure), but over the years I’ve stopped going out of my way to eat it or cook with it. This is primarily for health reasons, not because I’m ashamed to say I like it. It is a guilty pleasure of mine, if you will. I think that’s why my mom sent me a can of it in her latest care package (clearly not knowing that I could have just as easily gotten it here, but I still love her!). The can had been sitting on top of my refrigerator for a couple of months, and finally this morning it was time to crack it open.

Now, though the following “recipe” (if you could call it that) is downright delicious in a 300%-your-daily-sodium-intake way, I’m gonna put it out there that I definitely don’t recommend you make it more than once a week. In fact, once a month is pushing it… once a year is a treat. Reserve it specifically for when you’re lazy and all you’ve got in your cupboard is a can of spam and a package of instant ramen (like I was when I woke up this morning!).

Fried Saimin*

  • 1 package of instant ramen (any brand)
  • 2 slices or so of SPAM (or your favorite luncheon meat brand)

saimin = Hawaii’s version of  the classic noodle soup dish

(I know, I’m the next Bobby Flay)

Boil some water in a pot. Setting aside the packet of salty broth for later, cook the ramen noodles for a couple of minutes and drain.

Next, take your can of spam. You won’t be using the whole thing, unless you’re times-ing the recipe by 4. Hey, you might have company, or maybe you want leftovers… if that’s the case, I don’t judge!

Slice a couple of centimeter-ish thick pieces, then cut those into smaller pieces.

Fry up that spam good in a non-stick skillet over low to medium heat. DON’T add oil–there’s more than enough grease on regular spam–however I sprayed the pan with a bit of PAM cooking spray, since I was using Less Sodium Spam which is a smidgen less oily. Cook to your desired brownness.

Once you’ve flipped the sides of the spam at least once, toss the noodles into the pan. Rip open the powdered broth base and sprinkle conservatively onto noodles, tossing them around so they all get nice and covered. You REALLY don’t need to use the entire packet of broth–those things are incredibly unhealthy–I try to use half or less. Once the noodles appear equally coated, continue to fry them, flipping every so often until they are as crispy as you want. Depending on how long this takes and the heat you’re using,  you might want to make sure the spam pieces stay on top of the noodles, unless you like burnt spam which some people do.

Voila! Delicious heart attack on a plate.

I had some nori which I shredded and added as a garnish on my fried saimin. Clearly this is optional, as if you are eating this dish in the first place you probably don’t care very much about how pretty it looks.

But what to do with the rest of the spam? To be continued…

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