Rice

Spam Katsu Musubi

November 17, 2021
5 Stars
Photo by Julia Gartland. Prop Stylist: Alya Hameedi. Food Stylist: Anna Billngskog.
Author Notes

So much of Hawaii comes from other places. The fragrant plumerias that line streets with white, yellow, and pink blossoms are originally from Central and South America. The fluorescent giant day geckos in neon green that dot the island homes are native to eastern Madagascar. Even the cuisine itself is a blend of influences from the different people who have populated the islands. And Spam katsu musubi is a reflection of that mixed history.

The canned ham gained popularity during World War II due to soldiers sharing it wherever they were based. It spread throughout Asia and is now a beloved ingredient in the Philippines, South Korea, and beyond. Within the U.S., Hawaiians alone eat more than 7 million cans of Spam every year, more than anywhere else in the country.

The original Spam musubi is made with Spam (of course), rice, nori, and sometimes a sweet soy glaze. It is believed to have been created by a Japanese woman living in Hawaii, but it gained even more traction after it first appeared at 7-Eleven Hawaii in 1996. There are countless variations out there, like longanisa, tofu, and tempura shrimp. But around 1997 is when Spam katsu musubi made its debut at 7-Eleven Hawaii.

It includes all the same ingredients as the original. But—and this is the best part—the Spam itself is dredged in flour, egg, and crunchy panko, then fried until golden brown. It's a riff on Japanese katsu, a dish where the interior is juicy and the exterior is crisp, with an audible crunch. A former worker of Warabeya USA, the Japanese-owned company that makes the fresh food in 7-Eleven Hawaii, first made this dish as a lunch experiment, not intending for it to be an official item, but it soon became a staple on the menu, and is now the fourth-most-popular musubi variety.
Kiera Wright-Ruiz

  • Prep time 5 minutes
  • Cook time 10 minutes
  • makes 8
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup (60 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/4 cups (63 grams) panko
  • 3/4 cup (149 grams) vegetable oil
  • 1 (12-ounce/340-gram) can Spam, cut horizontally into 8 slices
  • 3 sheets nori, cut crosswise into thirds
  • 4 cups (850 grams) cooked short-grain white rice
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Set up a dredging station: Place the flour, beaten eggs, and panko into 3 separate shallow bowls.
  2. In a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium-high. While the oil is warming, dredge half the Spam slices: First in flour, then eggs, and finally panko, being sure to press the panko firmly, creating a thick, even layer.
  3. Once the oil is shimmering, add the coated Spam directly into the hot pan and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Remove and transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate or wire rack to drain.
  4. Repeat the dredging and frying process for the remaining Spam.
  5. Divide the rice into 8 equal portions. Using a musubi mold, add the rice directly and press firmly until it is about ½ inch thick. (If you don’t have a musubi mold, you can use a clean Spam can that is lined with plastic wrap in its place.)
  6. Place the formed rice on top of a Spam katsu and wrap with a nori slice, using a little water to seal the nori edges. Repeat for the remaining musubi. Serve immediately or wrap with plastic wrap to eat on the go.

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