Monday, April 8, 2013

Spam Musubi Chirashi Sushi [Food Bloggers Against Hunger]

I started this blog because I've picked up a number of clues for what to do when you're overwhelmed with fresh produce--from your CSA farm share, your garden, your neighbor's garden, or a deal at the store you couldn't pass up.  Got too much of a certain vegetable, say, kohlrabi?  I can help you.

The flip side of the coin, having too little food, is what we're on about today.

I have never truly experienced food insecurity.  I had weeks in college where I couldn't afford to buy food and pay rent, but I worked at a restaurant so I managed to eat on the days I worked, and even take home a doggie bag for my days off (and I was only responsible for myself and my dog).  That's not food insecurity.
The Feeding America website defines food insecurity as not always knowing where your next meal is coming from.  As a person who has the skills, supplies, and space to put up whatever my garden decides to grow, it's very troubling to me that nearly 1 in 5 children in America, and more than a quarter of all kids here in Ohio, live in households with uncertain nutritionally adequate and safe supplies of food (source).

I'm happy to join with Food Bloggers Against Hunger to dedicate today's post to bring awareness and inspire action to end childhood hunger.

What can you do?
Well, certainly donating to Scouting for Food, or Stamp Out Hunger (coming May 11th), or your community canned food drive helps. Buying a few extra super sale items during your regular grocery shopping and dropping them at the food pantry helps.  Donating your excess garden produce helps. Teaching gardening at your kids' school, and donating the excess produce at harvest time, helps (and is so fun!).
If your CSA farm share provides you with something you just can't find a way to like (have you checked my Recipe Index By Ingredient?) please donate that item to your local food pantry each week when you get your box.  I remember I was surprised to learn that fresh produce can be donated directly to many food pantries.  Last year my local Foodbank distributed 1.2 million pounds of fresh produce (source: Feedwire Spring 2013) to hungry folks in a 3 county region--more than double the previous year's distribution!

When my young daughter said one December, after seeing all the holiday-time donation barrels at her school, "what do the people eat next month?", I realized that seasonal charity is not enough.

Help end hunger on a national scale.

Please take a moment, using this link, to tell Congress you support Federal nutrition legislation.  I just did, and it took me under 3 minutes and I even personalized the heck out of my message. Try it!  Now!

I'll get the recipe ready while you do.

There are some foods that seem to sharply divide the population.  For example, you love cilantro or you think it tastes like soap.  Me, I think it tastes like soap and love it anyway. Trend bucker.

Spam seems to be one of those foods.  Growing up I don't think I was much aware of Spam.  As an adult I observed it was an item that was often ridiculed:  called "mystery meat"or "poor people's food", Spam was definitely not the kind of food fit for a Discerning Palate.  Even recently, when I was helping pack boxes for the mobile food pantry at The Foodbank, I heard comments belittling a can of Spam that was unloaded from a donation barrel.  Why?  It's an inexpensive protein source that is shelf stable, doesn't require special tools to open or prepare, and can be used in a variety of ways.

My thoughts on Spam changed when I lived in Hawaii.  In the convenience stores across the US, you can find hot dogs, sausages, and taquitos hanging out under heat laps, ready to eat if you've got the munchies.  But in Hawaii, in addition to those usual suspects, there's this sushi-looking thing.  Spam musubi.  It's a slab of marinated cooked Spam (in place of fish) seatbelted onto a pad of rice with some nori.  I had to try it (I've never had to try a tacquito) and it's good eating!  Heck, even Martha Stewart likes Spam (browned in butter and put between thick slices of good bread, according to an interview I heard on an NPR show).

Because I'm happily inundated with veggies when I get my CSA farm share, I add vegetables to as many things as I can.  I once happened to have a kohlrabi burning a hole in my crisper (hey, it happens) when my son asked for Spam Musubi, so I made these rolls.  But if we're not needing a portable meal, or I have less time to prepare supper, it's fun to make Spam Musubi Chirashi style.  My friend Lasar introduced me to this scattered style of sushi, and I've expanded on her technique (though her original recipe card lives in a stack clipped on my fridge--for 3 moves/4 fridges now!).
Yes, my kohlrabi is naked.  I used the greens in this pizza.

Most of the ingredients should be available at your local grocery store, all except furikake and you don't even need that.  If you're in an Asian market getting supplies for this, look around for furikake.  It's a rice seasoning blend.  It keeps forever and is delicious on popcorn, though, note to vegetarians, it frequently contains bonito flakes or dried egg.  There are many different flavors of furikake.  I've tried 3, and my favorite remains the one that Lasar handed to me before she moved to Europe:  Katsuo Fumi Furikake.  My son and I sprinkle this on our plated servings.  My spouse and daughter do not.

Like cilantro, you either love it or you don't.

If you have preconceived notions about Spam, but have never even tried it, give this a try.  Listen to some Hawaiian music (Home In These Islands by the Brothers Cazimero is playing now) and transport yourself.  It's technically Spring and this taste of the islands 'ohana style helps me to feel the balmy breezes.
Careful!  It goes from perfectly cooked to burning at the edges in moments!
Yes, the composting guinea pigs will be getting the ends of the veggies in the background.
That's still shredded carrot, though it looks like cheese here.

Spam Musubi Chirashi Sushi (serves 6-8)

3 cups raw medium grain rice (I use Calrose or Hinode--a yellow bag) which you then cook according to your preference (mine is below)
1 can Spam (I always get original flavor)
1/4 cup (60 ml) soy sauce
1/4 cup (60 ml) oyster sauce
1/4 cup (60 ml) teriyaki sauce
1/4 cup white sugar
1/3 cup seasoned rice vinegar (or 3 Tablespoons rice vinegar + 2 Tablespoons white sugar + 1/2 teaspoon salt)
2 to 3 cups shredded carrot
2 to 3 cups peeled chopped kohlrabi (use cucumber if you don't have kohlrabi)
4 eggs, mixed with 1 teaspoon each sugar and salt, scrambled and chopped

I use a rice cooker.  It saves my sanity and I'm lucky to have it, and to have kids that can operate it for me.  To make this dish, start the 3 cups of rice going in the rice cooker (or on the stove top or microwave).  Cube the Spam into about 1/2 to 1 inch cubes.  Mix up the soy, oyster, and teriyaki sauces with the sugar, and toss this with the Spam cubes in a shallow bowl or pan.  Set aside to marinate for 20 minutes to an hour.  Shred the carrots and set aside.  Prep the kohlrabi and set aside.
Preheat a large skillet over medium-low heat.  Add a turn of vegetable oil around the pan.  Cook the Spam in the skillet until the marinade begins to caramelize, about 5-10 minutes, then turn the heat off and set it aside.

When you're ready to eat, dump the cooked rice into a large wide bowl.  Bonus points for Polish Pottery.  Pour the seasoned rice vinegar over top, and fold it into the rice.  I use a kind of fanning/folding motion with my rice paddle.  Once all the rice is fairly equally sticky, fold in the carrot and kohlrabi.  Scatter the Spam and scrambled egg over top, and fold them in.

Serve with soy sauce (and furikake, if you like) and congratulate yourself on not letting your assumptions get in the way of tasty food!  If you'd like to learn more about the issue of hunger in America, watch this movie trailerdownload the movie via iTunes, or see it at a theater near you.

Now please, go make your voice heard in support of Federal nutrition programs for children!
Thanks--I appreciate your taking the time to read this post.

To help spread the word, I've shared this post with the Clever Chicks Blog Hop at The Chicken Chick, the Wednesday Fresh Foods Link Up at Gastronomical Sovereignty, What's Cookin' Wednesday at Buns In My Oven, What's In The Box at In Her Chucks, Taste and Tell Thursdays, the Farm Girl Blog Fest at Let This Mind Be In You and Strange But Good at Sprint 2 The Table.


  1. You don't know what you are missing with taquittos. The boys have been known to even eat them for breakfast! ;-)

    What is the white bumpy circle thing in the first picture? I kinda reminds me of a ginger grater that we have.

    1. My kids eat dinner leftovers for breakfast a lot, so I am not surprised your boys like taquitos. And if Mike makes them, I am sure they are good. I will reserve judgement on the convenience store ones until I've actually tried one.

      White bumpy circle thing . . . is the rice paddle that came with our rice cooker. I refuse to look into ginger graters because I have no room in my kitchen utensil drawers and already have a microplane anyway.


  2. Great post. Fingers crossed we helped in some way.

  3. Great post Kirsten. Love all of your stories and especially this one. But if you don't mind as great as your dish looks, I think I will skip on the spam.

    1. Marlene,
      If you take me to Hawaii, I will do my best to convince you that Spam is a delicacy worthy of trying! Or we'll just have a nice vacation and gobble malasadas on the beach . . .

  4. This is a fantastic and powerful blog post. Thank you for writing it and sharing the message. I linked to it on my blog today.

    1. Julie,
      Thank you so much! I appreciate the link, and hope you're feeling better.

  5. We ate Spam often growing up, and I still like it. Our younger daughter was stationed in Hawaii and could not believe how much people there love Spam - but she loves it too, so she was happy. As for the hunger issue, I work at our local food pantry and hunger does seem to be an increasing problem. Part of it is that people don't know how to cook and have to rely on prepared foods - more expensive and less nutritious - sad.

    1. Donalyn,
      I think not knowing how to cook, not having access to the basic supplies (pots, pans, stove, oven), living in a food desert, and seeing amazing cooking feats on TV all work together to exacerbate the problem. A multi-pronged approach is necessary, and I hope momentum is gathering.

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  7. Thank you for sharing with the Clever Chicks Blog Hop this week; I hope you’ll join us again!

    Kathy Shea Mormino

    The Chicken Chick

  8. We ate Spam as kids; Mom put it on sandwiches. The jelly sucking sound as it slid out of the can always grossed me out. But then when I lived in Hawaii, as you and others have mentioned, I was shocked at how well liked it was there. In restaurants! On menus! Like it was a real food!

    My kids discovered Spam in single slice packets at the grocery store when they were younger, and for a while that was one of their special treats to pick up a few for them when we went to the grocery store. They had me fry it, which seemed marginally better then raw (can it really be raw?) Spam on sandwiches. Thankfully, they have outgrown that phase, because I still can't think of it as real food.

    And don't even get me started on the Libby's "meat product" my mom used to serve us. :(

    1. LOL, the "jelly sucking sound"--very aptly put!
      I prefer Spam fried, because the crisp edges are more appealing to me. Martha Stewart does too, so I'm in good company, though I don't think I'd put it on a sandwich.

      I'm aware of "Treet" but I'll have to investigate this other "meat product" . . . or not, I'm cool with Spam and don't really care to branch out.

      Good to see you back online.

  9. We eat Spam musubi now and then, along with the fried rice like you've made here. Nori Goma Furikake is awesome!

    1. Laura,
      I'll have to check out Nori Goma next time I'm furikake shopping. There sure is a bewildering array of flavors--I'm trying to come up with an analogy of something American and am stumped.
      This isn't actually fried rice--it's a scattered sushi, combining hot cooked rice with the other goodies in a bowl (no further cooking).

  10. Yum!! Visiting you from Taste and Tell Thursdays!!

  11. Great post! It's been a long time since I've considered SPAM!

    1. Spam is overlooked in my opinion--not that I want to eat it every week, everything in moderation, but still. It's inexpensive and tasty.
      Thanks for stopping by!

  12. My sons' boyscout troop had a spam cooking contest, great backpacking food

    1. What a great idea--a cooking contest for spam! (Feel free to make this and wow the judges!)
      My son made something similar--these ingredients in roll form--for a depression-era school project meal.
      Thanks for stopping by!

  13. Never tried spam before but this looks enticing...might have to pick up a can or two :)

    Thanks for sharing and linking up!

    1. Heather,
      We could just go to Hawaii, on a field trip, and I'd be happy to fix many Spam delights there.
      Thanks for hosting!