Food for thought: Spam and Shoyu

Two news items worth noting, although one is kinda old already:

First Burger King has announced that in Hawaii, they’re selling a new item, a Spam Platter — two slices of Spam nestled between white rice and scrambled eggs. BK, which is based in Miami, also serves its Croissanwich or Biscuit Sandwich with Spam for the Hawaiian market.

McDonald’s has been serving Spam, Eggs and Rice for breakfast since 2002.

I can’t believe I’ve never written about Spam before. Hawaii boasts the largest per-capita consumption of Spam in the world, thanks in large part to the U.S. military’s presence on the islands. The Associated Press reports that Hawaiians eat more than 5 million pounds of the pressed meat annually, or an average of six cans for every man, woman and child. Spam “musubi” – what I jokingly describe as “Spam sushi” because it’s a slab of Spam on top of a block of rice with nori seaweed wrapped around it, is a rarity in Colorado but is ubiquitous throughout Hawaii, even at convenience stores.

I’m not a huge fan of Spam. My mom used to cook it once in a while when we were kids because my dad liked it, but I couldn’t eat a lot before the overpowering taste would make me ant to urp. Now as an adult, though, I find I crave it a couple of times a year, especially with Spam musubi (homemade or at one of the few restaurants that serve it), or sliced and grilled for breakfast like a super-unhealthy alternative to the usual turkey bacon, or chopped up as a meat in fried rice.

I even made a pilgrimage to Spam’s birthplace in Austin, Minnesota when I attended an Asian American Journalists Association convention in Minneapolis, and drove to the Hormel headquarters. I went through the company’s Spam Museum and bought some bumper stickers, t-shirts and baseball caps.

The other notable foodie news was the 50th anniversary of Kikkoman in the U.S., the Japanese company that has made soy sauce a familar and much-loved condiment to tables across America. There are other soy sauce companies, and some soy sauce alternatives such as Tamari, but I grew up both in Japan and the U.S. with the ubiquitous hourglass-shaped glass bottles with the red pour top, which always was filled with Kikkoman’s shoyu.

These days, the glass bottle has a green top to signify Kikkoman’s lower-sodium version, but the taste and the brand-name association is still the same.

I can’t imagine my culinary life without Kikkoman drizzled on rice (much to my mom’s chagrin), mixed with raw eggs or “natto” (fermented soy beans), over lightly-boiled and cooled spinach, shredded cabbage, with meats and fish, and in a myriad of marinades and sauces including of course, teriyaki sauce.

Thanks, Kikkoman, and happy birthday.

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One Response to Food for thought: Spam and Shoyu

  1. Justin says:

    Aw, Gil…you made me crave Spam after the damndest time with this post – particularly Spam Sushi, the joys of which I believe you introduced me to waybackwhen at ServiceMagic.
    I even think I spotted a dented dusty at a local Thai roadside shack/grocer/gas stop/karaoke hut the other day. I will follow through and see if what I saw was indeed the real deal from Austin.
    Thanks fer the memory bump and urge to followthru on an impulse buy.

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