Serious Eats: Recipes
How to Make Spam Musubi
"The Spam musubi is a ridiculously simple creation, composed of four ingredients, yet its extremely high rating on the scale of tastiness cannot be denied."
Editor's note: Robyn Lee here at Serious Eats HQ came in a couple weeks ago with that Hawaiian mainstay, Spam musubi. We were all intrigued, wondering where she got it. "My friend Kathy made it; I took pictures." We asked, Do you think she'd be up for teaching us all how to make them? And so, hot on the heels of Tuesday's musubi intel, Kathy checks in with an awesome how-to. —Adam K.
Of all the foods people associate with Hawaii, Spam musubi seems to be most popular, with echoes of lau lau, lomi lomi salmon, and kalua pig trailing just behind. I've heard the terms Spam sushi and Spam sandwiches, but, no, get it right: It's Spam musubi.
Back home in Hawaii, musubis are found at every convenience shop on the islands, 7-11 included (and, I must say, their musubis are pretty darn good!). Musubis are sold in school cafeterias and right alongside butter mochi at local bake sales. Picnic? Someone's mom is bound to make at least two dozen. Sleepover? Either dinner that night, or straight out of the fridge for breakfast.
The Spam musubi is a ridiculously simple creation, composed of four ingredients, yet its extremely high rating on the scale of tastiness cannot be denied. Spam, rice, nori, and furikake. Basic staples of every Hawaiian kitchen.
There are no exact measurements involved--you work according to taste and personal preference. However, as a starting guideline, three cups of uncooked sushi rice for every can of Spam is average. If you don't have a rice cooker, it's a great investment; no proper Hawaiian parent would send her child off to the mainland for work or college without a rice cooker in tow.
A little while ago Robyn came over, and we embarked on a musubi adventure—both to quell my cravings and satisfy Robyn's curiosity. Rice finished and warm in the cooker, we cracked open the Spam, gave a sturdy tap to the bottom of the can, and watched with glee as the pale pink solid of happiness plopped onto the cutting board, glazed in savoury gelatinous goo. Slice the Spam into eight even pieces—or ten if you prefer, but I like my musubi on the meaty side, heavy on the Spam.
Next, mix some soy sauce and sugar in a bowl. How much of each? It's all up to you. Some like it more sweet, others like it salty. Start with equal amounts, and adjust to taste.
OK. Now comes the awesome part. Place a sauté pan on a burner, turn up the heat, lay the slices of Spam down, and fry away.
After 1 to 2 minutes, pour the soy saucesugar mix over the Spam—the mix will effortlessly soak into the crisping Spam pores, making it more salty (as if that were even possible) and a tad sweet as the sugar caramelizes.
Keep frying it until you reach your desired level of crispness. Once done, transfer the Spam to a plate.
Now, work quickly and have everything else laid out for assembly, otherwise the Spam will no longer be hot and crisp by the time the musubis are assembled. That would suck.
OK. Ready? Cut the nori strips in half lengthwise, and lay the musubi-maker -- everyone has one, right? ;) -- on the middle of the nori (as seen above). Use the rice paddle to scoop a generous mound of rice into the mold. Use the musubi-maker handle to press down on the rice. Press hard. The last thing you want is floppy, unpressed rice--that just makes it difficult to eat.
Shake a thin layer of furikake over the rice (right); lay a slice of Spam on top, and then shake on another layer of furikake. Some like to use li hing mui in place of furikake, which gives it a completely different taste, venturing into the realms of tangy-sweet, but I prefer the added crunch and hints of sesame from the furikake. Add one more layer of rice, and one final press.
Press with all your might! You want this packed tight. The musubi is intended to be a portable treat. You should be able to stuff it in your backpack for lunch on the beach, take it on a hike in Manoa Valley, or a bike ride around the island. It is durable.
Once you've given it a firm press, hold the handle down with one hand, and use the other to pull the mold upward, thus unleashing the musubi.
Quickly wrap the nori around the rice (use a few grains of rice to stick the nori together at ends if necessary).
Now hurry and monch, monch away before the nori goes soft!
Quite 'ono, eh?
There shouldn't be leftovers, but if so, wrap each musubi individually in plastic wrap, so you may pop them in the microwave whenever you desire. Or if you have extra time on your hands, I sometimes put the entire musubi in a pan, over low heat, and fry on all sides, crisping up the nori. There is no wrong way to eat Spam musubi.