When President Obama requested Spam musubi during a golf outing on his pre-inauguration Hawaiian vacation, he struck a blow for Hawaiian cuisine and brought new attention to the peculiar Polynesian snack. Yes, of course you can get Spam musubi in cosmopolitan Space City. But how does our local version compare to the real thing, you are probably wondering.
I compared the Spam musubi at two Houston Hawaiian restaurants with a specimen I purchased at a grocery store on the Kohala Coast. Here's a comparison in words and pictures.
The Spam musubi I got on the Big Island was expertly wrapped--and as you can see, the rice was lubricated with some terikayi sauce--or is that papaya marmalade? Cooking the Spam in papaya marmalade, or treating the rice with soy sauce or teriyaki sauce adds a little interest to the rice. At breakfast time, a folded square of Japanese omelet is often tucked on top of the Spam for a ham and egg variation.
Little Island Grill on Westheimer near Hillcroft sold me this sad-looking example of Spam musubi. As you can see, the nori wrapper has been artlessly wadded over top of the Spam. The whole thing came apart as soon as I bit in. In Hawaii, a Spam musubi mold is used to give the salted rice its shape. Frugal islanders use the end of the Spam can. I don't know what they use for a rice mold at Little Island Grill, but it isn't working.
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The Aloha Grill on Westheimer near Kirkwood is turning out some decent-looking Spam musubi. Some teriyaki sauce or jam wouldn't hurt. But still, this one looked right and tasted great. It's not only a nicely composed piece of sushi, it had a decent size hunk of sweet, salty, greasy Spam on top. And that's what it takes to make "da kine" Spam musubi.