Spam Musubi: Why this Hawai‘i Treat is the Perfect Food

Posted in: Editor's Blog, Food & Drink

By Richard Melendez, Digital Editor

Spam Musubi

What fits in the palm of your hand, is easy to eat while on-the-go, can serve as either a snack or a meal, is inexpensive and is oh-so-delicious?

Okay, in all fairness, a lot of food items fit the description—anything from fruits to Pop-Tarts—but there’s one that is uniquely a product of Hawai‘i. I’m talking, of course, about the ever-popular Spam musubi. Take some white rice, pack it into a brick shape, place a slice of Spam upon it, wrap it in a strip of nori (seaweed), and voila—you have yourself the perfect food: the Spam musubi!

With origins that date back to the Japanese internment camps in the dark days of World War II, the Spam musubi has since become a celebrated local staple enjoyed by most everyone. They’re often found at convenience stores, the deli sections of supermarkets, and even higher-end gourmet versions are served at assorted eateries.

The classic, no-frills variety is made with Spam, rice and nori with the Spam oftentimes dipped in a salty/sweet concoction made from shoyu (soy sauce) and sugar. There’s a common breakfast variation with a thin omelet layer above or below the Spam; a spicy version seasoned with a hot sauce; a Spam katsu musubi, with the meat breaded in panko flakes and deep-fried; and even a version where the entire musubi is breaded and fried.

There are even variations that omit the Spam altogether in favor of chicken, teriyaki beef or tofu, among other protein options. We won’t speak of those, however, because in my view, there shall be no other musubi before the glorious Spam musubi.

Now, some misguided souls might argue that Spam musubi really isn’t a “perfect” food—a strip of nori is no substitute for a serving of vegetables (I’d beg to differ!), and as a processed meat, Spam has all sorts of naysayers (they’re no friends of mine!), but dollar-for-dollar, and for its remarkable portability and unique flavor, there aren’t many foods that come as close to perfect as Spam musubi.

So who makes the best Spam musubi? That’s a debate that will go on for decades, but in my ever so humble opinion, you can’t beat the ones sold from hot food case at your local 7-Eleven. Everyone’s got their own preference, though, and it’s hard to go wrong. Like pizza, Spam musubi is one of those foods where even a bad experience is still decent.

And while Spam musubi can be the best part of your work or school day, vacation is also the ideal time to indulge in this little treat. Whether you’re doing a drive around the island, going for a scenic hike, or just kicking back at the beach, take a Spam musubi (or two) along for the ride. You won’t regret it. You might even find yourself packing some for the plane ride home.


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