This is a continuation of spam, but NOT the annoying kind you should immediately discard from your inbox. I had leftover spam after making fried saimin that I wanted to make use of, and luckily the perfect opportunity presented itself when a friend invited me to go whale watching the next morning! We planned to meet at the crack of dawn, which would mean if we were to eat anything at all beforehand, it had to be something quick and easy to grab. I texted my friends, “Yo… are you cool with spam?” They replied, YES, and so I went to work on making some spam musubis for breakfast!
A little background: spam musubi is one of the defining culinary items hailing from Hawaii. The essential ingredients are spam, rice, and nori (dried seaweed), and basically you wrap it all together and you’ve got spam musubi. Omusubi is another word for onigiri, or Japanese rice ball (“omusubi” is is apparently a more whimsical term than “onigiri,” “what it would be called in a children’s fairy tale” according to my friend Toshi). The spam slices in spam musubi are usually fried first in a mixture of shoyu (soy sauce) and sugar. It’s a savory, simple snack, found at any 7-11 or after-soccer meet, and always manages to hit the spot when hunger hits. Like I said in my previous spam post, I try to eat less spam these days. Still, sometimes out of nowhere, a spam musubi craving hits me. I just had it so much growing up in Hawaii. It’s so good!
If you want to eat spam like a Hawaii-person, then spam musubi is a must-try. The following isn’t a special recipe or anything (I pretty much just adapted the sauce a bit from this recipe I found online), but it basically captures the essence of spam musubi. Feel free to change the proportions of anything to your liking!
- 1 can of SPAM
- White rice (I think I used about 1/3 cup of rice per musubi, but you can use more or less)
- Nori (dried seaweed) sheets
- 3/4 cup-ish of shoyu (soy sauce)
- 1/2 cup-ish of brown sugar
- 2-3 cloves of garlic
- spam musubi maker (or a leftover SPAM can with the bottom cut out)
- saran wrap
- small bowl of water with a dash of salt (optional)
* yields 8-10 musubis
This particular recipe requires that you marinate the spam for 4-6 hours, but I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary. Sure the spam will be tastier that way, but if you don’t have the time, don’t worry about it… just use the same mixture of sauce to fry the spam slices immediately.
First, slice up a pink slab of spam. 8-10 slices are ideal if you use a whole block. I was using what I had leftover from fried saimin, so I only made six. Next, mince the garlic. Then mix the shoyu, brown sugar, and garlic all together until the sugar dissolves. Marinate spam slices in the mixture for 4-6 hours (again, this is optional).
When you’re ready to make the spam musubi, you need to make sure you have a spam musubi mold/maker (they’re usually plastic/acrylic, and can be bought easily in Hawaii, Hawaii specialty shops, or online). You could try to make spam musubi without one, but it would be a lot harder. The mold helps to get the rice in the perfect rectangular spam shape as well as to pack the rice tightly. IF you don’t have access to a plastic maker (like me here in Okinawa), you can cut the bottom off of a can of spam, but if you do this BE VERY CAREFUL! Metal spam cans are extremely sharp! I thought I was gonna kill myself cutting a hole in this one, to be honest. It’s a wonder I didn’t. The can and a spoon actually ended up working really well, but again pleaseplease PLEASE be super careful if you use a can as your mold.
Once the spam is done marinating, fry the slices on both sides in a pan. I did two at a time (though you can do more), making sure to pour some of the marinade into the pan as it was cooking. Because of the sugar, the sauce should become slightly gooey. I recommend finishing all the spam at once, then setting it aside.
Once spam is done cooking, get your rice ready. It’s best if the rice isn’t too fresh (but also not too old, since it might be too dry). Straight up white rice is usually used for spam musubi, but you can also use a combination of white and brown rice. Brown rice completely, again, might be too dry, but you could try it. I used about 3 parts white rice, 1 part brown rice/healthy mixture (hence the funky-looking beans).
Place a strip of nori on a cutting board/surface. The nori strips can be as wide as the length of the spam musubi or smaller, depending on how much you want. To keep it simple, I just kept mine as wide as possible.
Next, place a spam slice in the middle of the strip, then the mold/maker/can on top of the spam (if using a can, make sure the cut/sharp side is DOWN).
Spoon some rice into the mold on top of the spam.
Using either the handle that comes with the maker, or a spoon (I used a plastic Asian soup spoon which was perfect), press the rice down firmly. I just kind of estimated how fat I wanted my musubis to be, which again came out to probably about 1/3 a cup of rice each, but the amount is completely up to you. You can always add more once you’ve mashed down the rice. Make sure it’s packed as tightly as possible.
Holding the handle/spoon down in place over the rice with one hand, use the other hand to carefully lift the mold/can off. If you pressed down firmly all around in the last step, you should end up with a nicely shaped block of rice.
Almost finished! Wrap the ends of the nori tightly around the musubi. I think some people immediately wrap the musubi in plastic saran wrap from here, but I like to seal the ends of the nori in a mixture of salt water first to make sure that it sticks. Again this is completely up to you.
Rip a decent-sized length of saran wrap (1 foot is plenty). At the start of the wrap, place the musubi with the long sides pointing up and down in the middle, and wrap, wrap, wrap. Now there may be some technique out there that is key to ensuring the musubi is packed and held together super well. I do not know of such a technique, so I’ll just suggest that you wrap as tightly as possible, then fold the edges over. That should be good enough.
Voila! Spam musubi, ready to go. Repeat til all the spam is gone and you have a proud little spam musubi family pyramid.
I’ll admit, it was fun re-visiting the craft of homemade spam musubi, but when I was finally done I was 20 minutes behind schedule to meet my friends at 8:15am! Gah! At 8:10am I tossed the musubis into a plastic bag, threw on some clothes, and jammed out the door to zip on over to Ginowan. I did end up parking in the paid lot since I was so incredibly late, but somehow I managed to pull into my spot just as everyone else was arriving at the pier. Woo! Made it!
I would have cried if my friends didn’t like it, but honestly, as long as it’s presented well it really is hard to go wrong with spam musubi. Even the most die-hard spam haters cannot resist it. Mmm…
Consumed in a matter of seconds, we were off to see some whales!
It was a cloudy but relatively warm day. I was genki-fied for the half of the 2.5 hours on the boat in which I did not feel seasick :( (didn’t take the Dramamine early enough, unfortunately).
BUT, I’d say that the headache/nausea was worth it. Because guess what I got to see plenty of?
I didn’t get any stellar photos or anything (most of the ones I took were too far, blurry, of the sky and not the ocean, or all of the above), but I did get to see whales breach a bunch of times. And this is coming from someone who was convinced she was cursed from ever seeing a whale (my parents’ house in Hawaii overlooks the ocean, yet I was the lone person in my family who was for some reason never able to spot one during whale watching season). Spam musubi and whales in one day… that’s what you call sweet revenge!