spam-musubi-lovestory-hero

When Spam Met Sushi: A Musubi Love Story

Spam musubi, a staple of Hawaii and other Polynesian islands, is a mix of expat influences, namely Japan and the midwestern U.S.

Spam musubi, a staple of Hawaii and other Polynesian islands, is a mix of expat influences, namely Japan and the midwestern U.S.

spam-musubi-lovestory-hero

Noms! Photo: Bandita / Flickr

Let’s start with Japan: in 1868, Japanese workers began arriving in Hawaii to work the sugar cane fields (land that had been stolen through trickery by robber barons from native Hawaiians; don’t get me started); by 1924 there were about 200,000 Japanese immigrants working in Hawaii.

spam-musubi-lovestory-service

Photo: InSapphoWeTrust

Most of them came from the Hiroshima region in the southeast, where the word for “balls of rice with stuff in it” was omusubi. (In other parts of Japan – and now the world – they’re called onigiri.) Omusubi was a popular homemade snack in Hawaii.

spam-musubi-lovestory-presentation

Yummy looking, right? Photo: Moto “Club4AG” Miwa

During WWII, the U.S. began sending ever-larger shipments of canned food to the islands, to sell to both soldiers and locals. Spam (which is a portmanteau of “spiced” and “ham”) became wildly popular, as it was the only meat available to a whole lot of people.

spam-musubi-lovestory-bowl

Photo: khluvr621

And it has remained popular: It’s even available at McDonald’s throughout the Pacific Islands. It’s not known who first put Spam to rice to nori, but here is what we do know:

  1. It’s only considered sushi if the rice is vinegared and sugared; musubi rice often is not.
  2. You will find Saran-wrapped Spam musubis sitting by the register of every gas station and convenience store in Hawaii.
  3. You’ll love it!

Follow Katherine on twitter @katherinespiers and Instagram, katherine_spiers.