There is just no way to conceal this recipe from my foodie friends. This post is going to blow your mind. While I am very aware that it’s fashionable to pontificate about fresh ingredients, grass fed meats and organic produce; the fact of the matter is, there is an entire part of our culture, our American history, when fresh ingredients were difficult to come by and processed foods became popular. Let me get straight to the point – Hawaiians have a love affair with SPAM – they eat it as a delicacy, adding it to soups and stews, treating it as a side dish for breakfast, and enjoying it as the main event for lunch and dinner.
For you youngins’ here is a bit of SPAM history 101. The Hormel Company, in Austin, Minnesota, developed America’s first canned ham in 1926. After the hams were cut, the company was left with thousands of pounds of nearly worthless pork shoulder meat. Jay Hormel, son of the company’s founder George A. Hormel, came up with the idea of using the pork shoulder in a new product called “Hormel Spiced Ham”(SPiced hAM). With World War II under way, sales of SPAM soared. In part because it requires no refrigeration, SPAM was perfect for the military and became a standard K-ration for U.S. soldiers. Military personnel introduced it in Hawaii and it quickly took hold to become a staple of the Hawaiian diet. To this day, residents of Hawaii consume more SPAM than populations anywhere else in the world: On average 12 cans of SPAM per person per year which equates to more than four million cans yearly. Typically when Hawaiian’s send care packages to their loved ones in the military the packages are filled with SPAM verses good ole’ American candies.
Having grown up spending many summers on Oahu with my grandparents, a part of me always felt a strong connection with the island. It was here, during my summers that I road the bus to the farmer’s market, ate poi and indulged in pineapple upside down cake and shave ice. What I somehow missed out on was experiencing a proper Hawaiian staple – SPAM.
That’s right, this post, inspired by Troy Lazaro, is about my first home cooked SPAM meal. I’ll admit, when I went to hear his presentation on SPAM I was both curious and apprehensive. (Sidebar: My mother claims to have discovered SPAM during her college years, brought it home to prepare for the family and was told it was not to be served at home again. No doubt this is due to the fact that it was judged as being a canned meat packed in a bit of gelatin; ergo, not very visually appealing until cooked. I am certain if my grandmother had tasted a morsel of this meat, once cooked, she would have felt differently.) Yes, it’s true, I am a new convert and I hope you will join me on this delicious SPAM-ified journey of Hawaiian Stir Fry and Musubi.
Hawaiian SPAM Stir Fry
1 can SPAM
1/2 onion (approximately 2/3 cup), diced
1 medium cabbage, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsps soy sauce
white sticky rice
Rice, cooked according to package directions.
Open can. Cut SPAM into strips. Heat olive oil in a high-sided pan. Add onion for 3-5 minutes, allowing it to sweat. Then add in SPAM to allow to brown. Add in cabbage and cook approximately 10 minutes, until done. Lastly, add in soy sauce and serve over rice.
Stay tuned for SPAM Musubi post next with Troy….