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While it’s by no means on the cutting edge of Hawaii cuisine, Spam is one of the foods most often associated with the Hawaiian Islands. Right up there with poi, lau lau, loco moco and other local treats, you may have heard about Hawaii’s “other” favorite meat – Spam. And while islanders will eat it every which way – with eggs for breakfast or on top of ramen noodles for dinner – one of the most popular ways to consume Spam is in a musubi.

When traveling throughout the islands you’ll find Spam musubi everywhere, at restaurants, grocery stores and even 7-11 convenience stores. Hey, if McDonalds has Spam in their breakfast, you know this mystery meat has made it.

Rolling out a spam-azing Spam musubi

It doesn’t matter if its breakfast, lunch, dinner or an afternoon snack, in Hawaii a Spam musubi can be enjoyed any time of day. While many kama`aina (local resident) think the best part of the Spam musubi is its delicious portability – they’re also incredibly simple to roll out in the kitchen.

This must-try musubi is often prepared by frying or grilling a slice of Spam, typically seasoned with a shoyu/soy sauce and sugar mixture. The cooked Spam is placed atop or sandwiched between rice, pressed into a rectangular mold, and then wrapped in nori (dried seaweed).

Because of the popularity of this dish, the preparation of a Spam musubi is as individual to someone as the way they like their eggs prepared. Some like to cut their Spam thin and fry it till it’s crispy. Others like a hefty chunk of Spam smothered in teriyaki sauce. Traditionally a good guideline for the rice to spam ratio is three cups of uncooked rice to one can of Spam sliced into eight to ten pieces.

And while purists stick to just three ingredients for their Spam musubi (Spam, rice and nori), others like to mix in a sprinkle of furikake (a nori and salt rice seasoning), a bit of scrambled egg, or even takuan or other pickled vegetable.

History behind Hawaii’s spam-azing meal

Hawaii residents’ love affair with Spam puts them at the top of Spam consumers the world over. Yes, kama`aina consume four million cans of Spam each year – that’s about 12 cans per person!

During World War II Spam’s popularity skyrocketed due to its long shelf life. In fact, as it became increasingly difficult to get fresh meat to soldiers, our men and women in uniform started to eat the canned meat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, slowly introducing it to islanders. And the love for Spam, stuck.

How the Spam met the musubi (a Pidgin English term and island creation for a ball of rice wrapped with nori) is still the stuff of local mystery. Many hypothesize that a plantation worker inevitably decided to create a local-style Spam “sandwich” – and the Spam musubi was born.

But whatever the actual story is, the Spam musubi is here to stay. Whether you are looking for a quick picnic at the beach, or a light breakfast, the Spam musubi is a great way to dine like the locals do. And, we gotta admit, it tastes pretty ono (delicious) too!