HOWTO make Spam Musubi

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My friend Jonathan Koshi, who is Hawaiian, posted his recipe for Spam Musubi. Koshi says, "Over the last 30 years the Spam Musubi has indelibly stamped itself on the local Hawaii menu. They are great snacks, highly mobile, and filling." Here are the ingredients and equipment list, from Notes From The Zeitgeist:
Spam Musubi Fo' Real

1 Can of Spam. Has to be the real thing. No substitutes.
1 Pkg. Roasted Nori Sheets (any kine brand is okay)
3 cups white short grain rice (any kine brand is okay)

Musubi Mold
Rice Paddle
Cup of water (not for drinking)
Beer (for drinking)
Recipe Time! Spam Musubi


  1. Why? I mean just why?

    Spam is like snout, intestine, shoe leather, assorted odds, ends, and whatever falls into the vat on some international waters, off-shore Hormel processing barge. Why eat Spam? Ever? And don’t say “Because it’s delicious!” I’m sure there’s some other meat that can be placed into this dish that isn’t as rank and inedible.

    1. Actually, according to Wikipedia the ingredients of spam are “chopped pork shoulder meat with ham meat added, salt, water, modified potato starch as a binder, and sodium nitrite to help keep its color.”

      Spam IS delicious. Especially with sugar and shoyu (provided it’s reduced sodium shoyu, way too salty with regular in my opinion).

    2. I think it’s mostly just pork shoulder. Taboos aside, spam in this format is pretty tasty.

      And to answer your “why?”, aside from the fact that a lot of people enjoy it, spam was very common around military bases for a time, especially in Hawaii and the Philippines, and it is/was cheap and high in fat and protein, so it found a home amongst poor people near military bases and spread from there. Think of it is international soul food, moved by the U.S. military.

  2. Having lived on the Big Island for a few years, I can say it’s actually pretty great stuff! Sure beats a chocolate bar after spending a few hours out on the water. All the gas stations there have it, and you can even get it at McDonalds. Spam is pretty big on the islands, something about it being the only meat readily available during WWII.

  3. I live in Okinawa, where spam musubi is also popular. The key is to fry all the oil out of the spam. Grill or fry it until it’s a little crisp. Dump the oil that comes out. It’s not good for you.

  4. Here are the ingredients as listed on Hormel’s site:

    >> Pork with Ham, Salt, Water, Modified Potato Starch, Sugar, Sodium Nitrite.

    Now you and I, as sophisticated and savvy readers of this man’s Boing Boing and the greater intertubes know full well that all manner of stygian awfulness hides in these three simple words: “Pork with Ham.”

    Those words conjure images of succulent and tender, healthy slices of delicious choice pig meat, but we all know that what Hormel actually puts into the grinder is nothing like our mental image. Spam is canned horror. Taste is not the issue.

  5. Spam is literally one of those words whose very utterance or thought has the ability to trigger the beginnings of a gag reflex. I kid you not.

  6. If your going to spend the money necessary to buy genuine Spamâ„¢ why not just buy real food?

    I suspect that Armour Star’s much cheaper and less greasy canned meat product — “Treet” — would work just as well.

  7. @Trotsky: Spam is just pork shoulder, but so what if it wasn’t? Snouts, intestines and other odds and ends are just as edible.

    That being said, I still won’t eat spam. ;-)

  8. I bought spam musubi from a street vendor after snorkeling around for a few hours in Hanauma Bay. My companion looked at me like I was crazy, but it was absolutely the perfect post-snorkeling snack. I’m salivating just thinking about it.

  9. Was pretty psyched to find spam musubi in the Seattle airport last time I was waiting for a flight back to Alaska. Just about as good as what I’ve had in Hawaii.

    The comments from the foodies are pretty funny. I appreciate localvoring, polyculturing, slowfooding, etc about as much as your average elitist foodie, but it’s hard to beat spam musubi.

  10. A very big sushi role? Well, I guess it is playing for the President of the United States of America. But it’s no Hamlet. More like Piglet.

  11. Why? Because it’s funny. That’s it. Spam is fekkin disgusting and everyone knows it. It’s something funny for the dorks at BoingBoing to blog about. Yay! Job accomplished….

  12. A Spam Cuban sandwich is great too. Fry up the spam, put on bread with pickles, mustard, and Swiss cheese. Spray with oil or coat with soft butter and put in a sandwich press and press until very flat and crispy.

    Sometimes you have to deal with what’s in your pantry for a quick meal.

  13. LOVE ME SOME SPAM MUSUBI! I spent my junior year of high school at Moanalua. Like any mainlander, I initially turned my nose up at Spam. But you can’t escape it. Clubs use it for fundraising, and parents bring it after soccer games like orange wedges. That’s were I initially tried it, fatigue and hunger extinguishing my previous conviction against Spam. Been a fan ever sense. Its crazy, but everything goes together perfectly. Salty meat, dense rice, sweet layer of sauce, all wrapped together. My friends would hate on it, until I blind-taste tested them. Don’t hate. Appreciate!

  14. I think as members of the “Internet Generation” esp. early “Dot.Com boom” adopters, we have a knee-jerk reaction to hate Spam, noting again that we got our start in a very prosperous time we never had to use “Fake” meat. IMO, spam isn’t any worse than 90% of hot-dog meat.

    And, how many of us have had sushi with “Krab” in it? Same thing, but pork versus seafood.

    I’ll have to try this recipe.

    Really, if some pig is raised to be killed for it’s meat, let’s waste as little as possible.

    Know what I like?

    Get some hot butter and one of those $2.50 packages of Krab. (perhaps half a package, dep on appetite and # of people, what else is cooked, etc.) Heat the butter, put scallions, garlic, pepper, lemon juice, etc. in it to taste. Then cut up and immerse the Krab and heat some more.

    Make sure to eat this ONLY with complex vegetables, carrot juice, V8, etc. No “Bread” for at least 2 hours pre and post and you might drink coffee with no milk or soda water with no sugar like “Talking Rain”.

    It’s rich, filling, satisfying, but not as fattening as it sounds (you aren’t drinking all the butter, right?) and if you are worried about cholesterol down the road, putting in a little “Olive Oil” will help balance the butter.

    1. >> I think as members of the “Internet Generation” esp. early “Dot.Com boom” adopters, we have a knee-jerk reaction to hate Spam

      I don’t hate Spam because I am a member of any generation, or because of some negative association with junk mail. I hate it because I’ve put it in my mouth before and swallowed it. And the greasy, rank taste of inferior grade pressed meat product is vile no matter how much you cook it or wrap it in something not-Spam.

  15. I tried to like Spam, I really did, but it was too salty and it left a nasty coating of grease in my mouth. This stuff looks kind of good, though. It would probably be even better with a higher quality meat. I searched around a bit for organic spam substitute but didn’t find anything. You could probably substitute unseasoned bulk pork sausage or even make your own spam-like substance from free range or organic pork.

    The last quality/junk food fusion that I made was shrimp/lime flavored ramen noodles- the cheap ones- with fried pork sausage
    and shredded mango pickle.

    The article says it’s a good food to bring on airplanes. I’m hoping for a video of an angry traveler fighting a TSA agent for her Spam musubi in the upcoming months.

  16. I have to admit… I had my doubts about spam until I went on holiday to Hawaii and had spam musubi and spicy spam noodles. They’re not exactly haute cuisine but they’re actually damn tasty dishes–although probably cause of all the salt.

    Hawaii also has many different kinds of spam, which helps.

  17. Foodie snobs who bag on Spam Musubi without even trying it are only showing their ethnocentrism. It’s the original working man’s Asian fusion food. Bunch of US Navy guys show up in Hawaii with cans of Spam, it gets discovered by a bunch of plantation workers from Japan, they integrate it into a delicacy that totally fits the Japanese food aesthetic, it gets embraced by every ethnic group in Hawaii, including the son of a Kenyan scholar and a Kansas student, who then becomes the most powerful man in the world, thus introducing it to the entire nation. How awesome is that?

  18. Spam has a pretty nice following in South Korea as well. Whenever I crave Korean food without having any Korean food, I fry up some spam and eggs and eat it with rice. I’ve had several friends turn their noses up to it but others absolutely love it.

  19. I feel like Spam musubi just needs one more generation to go completely viral and get totally remixed by the mainland. Hawaiian places in LA sell it in all kinds of variation, from chicken katsu musubi, to fried fish versions. The best thing about it is that somehow it needs Sriracha sauce to be perfect, throwing another culture into the delicious blender!

  20. Yeah, frying it is the way to go.

    I rarely eat Spam, but this looks tempting.

    Also, you gotta give Hormel props for not getting all trademark-freaky about the common usage of the term.

  21. Not exactly to be down on spam musubi or Hawaiian cuisine, but you must also realize that in Hawaii, macaroni salad, potato salad and rice may all be served in the same meal. Health food isn’t a big thing there amongst the locals.

    1. no no no, it’s macaroni salad with potatoes *in* it. one 2 scoops rice, one scoop mac salad. anything other than that and it’s not a real plate lunch.

      and before I stopped eating inhumanely raised meat, I ate spam musubi like candy. mmmmm. I’m still working on a decent humane-organic substitute for spam so I can make these again. maybe neiman’s ranch hotdogs sliced lengthwise, or a yummy firm fried tofu…

      1. I’m pretty sure that Neiman’s Ranch has been bought out and switched around from fairly humane to not-so-much anymore. The guy who used to run it has said he won’t eat meat from the company now that they’ve changed. I read this in Jonathan Froer’s Eating Animals, just came out last year.

  22. The stigma attached to Spam here on the US mainland is largely class-based; Spam is regarded as poor people’s food. Which is strange, considering that Spam costs more than twice as much as plain old pork shoulder, per pound. has a pretty detailed article about how Spam is made, in case anyone wants to try and figure out how to make a more healthy, and cheaper, equivalent at home. Part of the process involves mixing the chopped meat in a vacuum then it’s cooked in the can by immersing it in hot water. So I’m thinking some kind of sous vide-based recipe might work.

  23. I reduce my overall intake of meat for the sole purpose of consuming a spam musubi from 7/11 every few weeks or so. Awesome yum.

    PS: We are not poor, but we are food elitists. It MUST be SPAM. Treet or any other luncheon meat, once tasted, will be summarily returned for a refund. 7/11 also has chicken katsu, teriyaki, and hot dog musubi, among others. They’re all pretty good (If I must have hot dog, I can’t think of a better way).

    The rest of the food snobs (and helicopter parents) better not read the following: Even my babies (GASP!) get a spam treat from time to time.

  24. My favorite treat is to grab bites of spam “sushi” or musubi when I’m on the island. (Maui) I have white friends who live in Kihei and Macawao who like it too.

    Moral: Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it. It is way tastier than you know.

  25. So is SPAM really an acronym for “synthetically produced animal matter,” or did my mother just make that up to mess with us?

    1. “So is SPAM really an acronym for “synthetically produced animal matter,” or did my mother just make that up to mess with us?”

      Yeah, she did. Sorry.

      The actual origin is somewhat murky.

  26. I can’t believe how anti-Spam so many of you people are. It tastes good. I’ve eaten Spam musubi for years, and I’m not even Hawaiian. Salty, yes, but I like salt.

    Why is it that we admire less-developed cultures who use every part of the animal and yet turn up our noses at hot dogs, Spam, or other processed meat for doing the exact same thing? How wasteful it would be to only use the choicest cuts! Come on, think about it, folks.

      1. That said, I’ve only had fried Spam, and that was decades ago, and this recipe sounds good. Maybe I should give it another shot.

    1. “Why is it that we admire less-developed cultures who use every part of the animal and yet turn up our noses at hot dogs, Spam, or other processed meat for doing the exact same thing? How wasteful it would be to only use the choicest cuts! Come on, think about it, folks.”

      i agree with the “use the whole animal” bit, and i’m open to all types of appetizing charcuterie, but slimy, chopped flesh sliding from a tin can? .. yuck dude.

  27. Spam is 90% pork shoulder, 10% ham (pork leg/buttock), and 100% tasty.

    It’s actually much less disgusting than the meat they make hot dogs and bologna out of.

    Seriously, don’t you people EVER get out?

  28. Honestly the only way I will eat spam is in this setup. The rice and oily salty spam works perfectly. Yeah and hotdogs are about the same as spam btw.
    But yeah its strange how expensive spam is…per pound it can cost more then steak at times.
    Oh OH Oh anyone have spam katsu musubi? Its AWESOME!!!

  29. I am still chuckling about Spam being the ‘real thing’….doesn’t it stand for Specious Ham???

  30. This is not at all dissimilar from the de facto national dish of Korea. The really quite excellent “Kim Bap.” Also known as Ham Sushi. It generally includes egg, carrot, greens, artificial crab, and a yellow radish..but I think the centerpiece is ham.

    I always take my chopstick and poke the ham out, but it’s still delicious stuff. On a recent school picnic, every single student bar none brought some variety of this.

    It still boggles me, when I see a big grand display case at the door of the big grocery store. Selling, elaborately wrapped in a leather pouch with gold ribbons all about, the most prestigious and honorific gift … yes, cans of Spam.

  31. I ate spam once and wouldn’t do it again. It tasted chemical. I would try this dish if it was made with some other canned ham, preferably danish like Tulip.

  32. Thanks for posting the recipe–I like musubi [a guilty pleasure, since I deplore Hormel’s business practices] and it’s unobtainable in Toronto. [I was introduced to it in Seattle.] I’d be interested to know what ‘kine’ means in this recipe. In English, it means cattle, but that doesn’t fit. Neither does assuming it’s a typo of ‘kind’–‘3 cups white short grain rice (any kine brand is okay).’ Really, Arborio would work? Brown short grain? This seems unlikely.

    1. I’ve always thought it’s a regional variation on “kind” but my friend from Hawaii tells me it’s also pidgin for “Excellent”. He may be pulling this haole’s leg, however.

  33. But the nori (seaweed) is wrapped the wrong way! One layer rice, one layer spam, strip of nori wrapped around the middle, not the edge.

  34. OMG Spam, Military-Industrial complex Kkkemikkkals!!!

    But seriously, I like spam and I like sushi. So what’s not to like (from my point of view).

  35. If you simply will NOT eat spam, wrap up a slice of fried canadian bacon. It won’t be the same as SPAM Musubi, but it’ll be almost as good. (Canadian bacon already has plenty salt, so don’t add no shoyu. Maybe add a little sugar if you like it like dat.)

    Or hell, be all Web 2.0 and wrap up some american bacon (I’d probably go with not-crunchy). That’s the new hotness right, everything’s better with bacon?

  36. “It MUST be SPAM. Treet or any other luncheon meat, once tasted, will be summarily returned for a refund.”

    Your dedication to a high grease to meat ratio is admirable.

  37. SPAM — salted, canned pork developed by Hormel during WWII to feed troops in the field. Durable, pre-cooked, won’t spoil, can be eaten out of the can.

    This back before the Defense Department and the FDA figured out that fat and salt are not good for you.

  38. This post makes me so hungry! Spam musubi is the first thing I get when I get off a plane in Hawaii…

  39. I was one of the many elitists whom looked upon SPAM until I moved to Oahu and began to eat SPAM musubi on a regular basis. But the key really is to cook it until it is extra crispy; it’s even better that way. (There was a convenience store next my old place of employment where the proprietress would always overcook the SPAM musubi and I know now that her lazy cooking skills were actually a blessing in disguise…)

  40. I’m in favor of both fish and spam. But, I’m pretty sure that there are worse things you can get from eating raw fish than spam.

  41. Had some this weekend…hmmmm…delicious :) It really is some of the best hangover food EVAR!!!

  42. Who dares to mock Spam?

    You? You? You are not worthy

    Of one rich, pink fleck.

  43. “Hey, sewer rat may taste like pumpkin pie, but I’d never know ’cause I wouldn’t eat the filthy motherf*cker.” – Jules Winnfield, Pulp Fiction

  44. While on Maui last week, I checked out the saturday Swap Meet at Maui Community College where I bought a teriyaki beef musubi for lunch. She also had a teriyaki pork musubi. That’s when I realized you don’t have to really use spam as your filler. While a traditionalist at heart, this idea frees me up to new possibilities since I “treat” friends in Washington (the state) to such different delicacies. I have been known to use dungeoness crab in my manapua. Why not in a musubi? This is gonna be fun.

    My wife still won’t touch the nori. I serve hers naked.

    Also, at Da Kitchen in Kahului, they serve a panko encrusted deep fried spam musubi like it were a Food Challenge entry. Heard its “over the top.” Since I missed it while I was there, gonna have to figure out how to make it.

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