Dang it, I just missed National Spam Musubi Day–August 8—which, according to KCRA.com, is a date that corresponds with the Hawai'i area code 808. Never mind, any day is a good day for the delicious treat. What's Spam Musubi? And what are its origins? While Spam was first produced by Hormel in 1937, it rose in popularity during World War II. According to TIME:
In the Philippines, people were fleeing from Japanese invasion, and resisting its occupation from 1941 to 1945, when they were first introduced to Spam. On some Pacific Islands, Spam became a necessity for survival for many local residents due to food rationing and restrictions during the war. And for many Japanese Americans, their love for Spam began with one of the most painful memories, [Robert Ku, a professor of Asian American Studies at the State University of New York at Binghamton and the author of Dubious Gastronomy: The Cultural Politics of Eating Asian in the USA] writes in his book: The U.S. government sent canned meat to the incarceration camps where people of Japanese descent were forced to relocate and later detained from 1942 to 1945.
During this period, Spam began to make its way into local dishes. Barbara Funamura, a Japanese-American woman from Hawaii, is credited with having invented Spam musubi, a slice of grilled Spam on top of a block of rice, wrapped together with nori.
You can now find Spam Musubi all over Hawai'i and increasingly in restaurants across the United States. I actually had my very first Spam Musubi a few weeks ago in Los Angeles, at a delicious restaurant called "Broken Mouth," which describes itself as:
"An original food concept founded and operated by local Hawai'i boy, Tim Lee. From the fondest memories of childhood spent around the dinner table, we bring homestyle food of Hawai'i to Downtown Los Angeles, in efforts to share Tim's love for food and family. Korean by blood, Hawaiian at heart—our local Kaimuki boy, Chef Lee, was born and raised on the island of Oahu. In a leap of faith, Tim relocated to the Mainland. After years in corporate restaurant management, he decided to throw caution to the wind and gave life to an eatery of his own. We bring a little Los Angeles swagger to the charming local vibes represented at BROKEN MOUTH while staying true in paying homage to the roots of Hawai'i."
I absolutely LOVED the Spam musubi and am eager to eat it again the next time I see it on a menu. It's actually apparently fairly easy to make, too, and there are lots of delicious looking recipes all over the internet, like this one from Jess at Plays Well With Butter. I might make some this weekend, in fact. Happy belated National Spam Musubi Day!