Ingredient of the Week: Spam

Spurkey? (Spam: the turkey version)
Spurkey? (Spam: the turkey version)
Photo by John Suh

Ah, yes, that mysterious block of meat housed in the blue and yellow can. In 2007, the seven billionth can of Spam was sold. On average, 3.8 cans are eaten every second in the U.S. alone. Since its inception in 1937, Spam has become part of American pop culture--it has acted in films, been acquired by the Smithsonian, and now even has a museum of its own. Indeed, Spam is a rock star.

What is it?

Spam (which was derived from the marriage of the words "spice" and "ham") is a canned meat made of chopped pork shoulder meat, ham meat, salt, water, and potato starch. Spam initially spread to the Pacific when it was served to soldiers during the occupation of Okinawa and the Philippines. After World War II, it was popularized in the U.S. when a band of ex-G.I. Women formed the Hormel Girls and went cross-country promoting the "patriotic product." Because of its low cost, Spam has the rap for being poor man's food, but the "mystery meat" is well-loved in Hawaii and Guam, where the average consumption per person is 16 tins per year.

How do I use it?

Tuck slices of Spam between bread and you've got yourself a sandwich. Pan-fry the slices and eat them plain or with rice or eggs. It can also be stir-fried with other vegetables and/or rice. Add cubes of Spam to stews. Bake them in a casserole. Top them on pizza. The possibilities are endless.

Where can I find it?

You can find Spam products in the canned meat aisle of almost any supermarket or convenience store. There's now a variety of Spam, including Spam Classic, Spam Hot & Spicy, Spam Less Sodium, Spam Lite, Spam Oven Roasted Turkey, Hickory Smoked Spam, Spam with Bacon, Spam with Cheese, Spam with Black Pepper, Spam with Garlic, and Spam Spread.


Spam Musubi This popular Hawaiian snack is simply made with Spam, rice, and seaweed. We may not have their beaches, but we sure can have their Spam.

Hawaiian Fried Rice Another island favorite, this makes use of leftover ingredients, turning it into a delicious one-wok meal.

Spam and Eggs By far the simplest dish yet, this is breakfast when you're tired of the same ol' bacon or sausage.

Consider yourself a Spam connoisseur? What do you do with your Spam?

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