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Musubi turns Spam into a fine delicacy

By Paul Suplee,

Spam™ is the great, disrespected wunderkind of the potted meat world, and I stand by that. I can only say that if you think this delicacy is disgusting, you have never had it done right, and today? Well, you are about to see it done right.

Spam tends to lurk in the same category as anchovies. I love when folks, namely students, tell me how disgusting anchovies are as they splash their food with L&P Worcestershire Sauce. Don’t want to know? Then don’t read the ingredients, but I digress.

Musubi is one of my favorite snacks to eat in Hawaii and I can tell you that the only time it disappoints is when you go to the wrong gas station to get it. A ubiquitous snack food in the islands, it is a handheld pack of deliciousness that is only improved with a chilled glass of POG or fresh coconut water.

Our potted meat in question has been around since 1937, and was made famous during WWII as the allies made their way through the Pacific Theater and ate more than one hundred million pounds ( and that was news to me). The cool thing is that Hormel figured out a way to use the otherwise underutilized pork shoulder. Genius.

And when you waltz through the Hawaiian grocery stores, barefoot as I usually am and you should be as well, I’m always amazed at the hundreds of cans in all 15 flavors that adorn the shelves. It warms my pasty white heart.

I’m fairly certain that I’ve written in the past about me traveling south and ordering fried green tomatoes every chance I get to compare. In Hawaii it is the same way with musubi. Most times it is wonderful, but on that rare occasion, I question my sanity and rethink my purpose in life, but so it goes, all in the name of research of course.

And if you do happen to worm your way through Kauai, the gas station in Princeville is good, but that one on the edge of Lihue? Don’t even think about it. Caveat emptor. Otherwise, you just might be reenforcing your negative beliefs in Spam, and how dare you blaspheme in front of me?


makes 6 pieces

1 can Spam™ (don’t knock it until you try it)

2 c.  Cooked sushi rice (recipe sort of follows)

1/4 c. Hawaiian BBQ sauce (recipe follows)

1-2 strips nori seaweed

  1. Cut Spam into six equal slices. If you have spatial deficiencies and you are worried about what “even” means, cut the whole lot in half, and then cut each half into three. This will at least get you closer to the end-game.
  2. Sear in a tiny touch of oil or pan spray until golden on both sides. You do not need to add salt, as our little friend acts as a hammy salt lick as it is.
  3. Set aside and get ready for assembly.
  4. Drop a piece of plastic wrap in your now-empty Spam can and put a piece of cooked Spam in.
  5. Brush or swipe with some of your BBQ sauce and top with about 3/4-inch of sushi rice
  6. Press down firmly and evenly and remove from the can carefully.
  7. Now just take a 1-inch strip of nori seaweed and moisten it, laying the musubi Spam-side down.
  8. Wrap it tight like you are binding up a package to go on a pallet, turn it over and it is done.
  9. You may leave as is or brush one more time with a little bit more of your sauce. It depends on how well you made it.

Sushi Rice

Makes about 5 cups (plenty for some sushi)

2 c. Sushi rice

3 c. Water

1/4 c. Granulated sugar

1/2 c. Rice wine vinegar

salt, only as needed

  1. This is why I wrote “sort of follows” above: Every brand of sushi rice has a different set of instructions, so basically follow the one on the bag.
  2. There is a plethora of information online about making sushi rice, and I want you to dig in and find a process that works for you.
  3. The first big pointers is to rinse your rice thoroughly before cooking. This is critical and yields a perfect rice for sushi, poke and musubi as pictured here.
  4. The second big pointer is to cook the rice a little before service but for the best results, do not refrigerate. We have all had grocery store sushi, and while it’s not bad, it is absolutely not the same thing.

Hawaiian BBQ Sauce

makes about 1 quart

1 c. Soy sauce

1 c. Pineapple juice

2 Tbsp. Ketchup

1/2 c. Rice wine vinegar

1/2 c. Brown sugar, light

1/4 c. Roasted garlic

3-inch piece of peeled ginger, fresh

3 Tbsp. Black and white sesame seeds

2 Tbsp. Red pepper flakes

  1. Combine everything in a saucepan except for the sesame seeds and pepper flakes.
  2. Bring to a simmer and slowly reduce until it has slightly thickened. As it cools down, it will thicken more. Also, the more you reduce it, the saltier it will be, so be judicious in your simmering actions.
  3. Strain to remove ginger after you are happy with the consistency.
  4. Add the sesame seeds and red pepper flakes and refrigerate until ready to use.

Paul Suplee is the owner of the
boxcar restaurants and is also
Senior Lecturer of Culinary Arts at UMES.