Spam Musubi: Hawaiian sushi innovation

Spam Musubi on a plate

I’m starting to think that I may have gone a bit soft over the past few weeks.

I called this non-beer surprisingly refreshing. I enjoyed this slice of spam strapped to brick of rice and served at roughly the temperature generated by salmonella having hot and dirty sex. Frankly, I’m loving for none of the right food reasons and it is blurring my judgment altogether.

The “spam musubi” (above) is big, dumb fun – it’s the eponymous potted spiced ham fried with teriyaki sauce then bound to rice with a belt of nori. It comes with the endorsement of at least one American president and is available around the Hawaiian islands from sushi counters and convenience stores.

I’m surprised that there seems to be no clear history of spam musubi: Was it an innovation that started with the influx of US troops in a similar fashion to the start of budae jjiggae in Korea? Did it come via Okinawa where a similar dish is served or did the two co-evolve? Why was the honorific “o” dropped from “omusubi“? This dish can’t be more than sixty years old, and so its birth is possibly still within someone’s living memory.

2 Comments Spam Musubi: Hawaiian sushi innovation

  1. kinakojam

    aloha phil; the pan-asian influence in hawaii started in the 1880s with the sugar/fruit companies’ immigrant workers…
    also explains the Hawaiian plate lunch (multicultural variant of the Bento) as this article tells:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/12/dining/12plate.html

    As for the spam side of it, canned meats like spam & corned beef are big all over the pacific. apparently a colonial culinary legacy of the British:
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/1578329/Spam-at-heart-of-South-Pacific-obesity-crisis.html

    As for dropping the honorific ‘o’, that’s sometimes done with compounds in Japanese (see Shiomusubi, sake-nigiri). But not always (see yaki-onigiri).

    it could also be a classic case of linguistic change where the ‘o’ was dropped because it’s easier for english speakers to run the ‘m’ of Spam right into the ‘m’ of musubi. (co-articulation)

    Reply

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