There is no snack that Hawaiians and locals love more than SPAM Musubi. I don’t make these very often as I have a love-hate relationship with SPAM, but whenever I head out to Hawaii I am always reminded of how iconic this specialty is in Hawaiian food culture. And yes, as crazy as it is to say, SPAM musubi are incredibly tasty!
During my college years at UCLA, I participated in an exchange program to study Asian American culture at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Near my dorm, a local food truck would park itself along the pathway I took to my classes, well-stocked with piping hot SPAM musubis every morning. I would often pick up a SPAM musubi on the way to sessions, wondering how a snack so seemingly odd could be so delicious.
If we are talking about Asian American food culture, there couldn’t be a specialty more representative of the idea than SPAM Musubi itself. During WWII, American-made SPAM was actually shipped abroad to feed allied troops. Musubi, also known as onigiri, refers to a Japanese white rice snack paired with something salty or sweet. Who would have thought the two ingredients would make such a popular and iconic pairing?
You can tell from these SPAM musubi pillows in the window of a gift shop in Downtown Honolulu that I really wasn’t kidding then I said that this snack is much-loved in Hawaii. I was really tempted to get one of these, but made the adult decision not to. If I got a few of them, how fun would my next pillow fight be!?
There isn’t much to making a musubi, the most difficult thing is getting a musubi maker to make all sushi pieces look nice and neat. I’ve mini-fied my musubis, where 1 regular sized musubi is cut into 3 smaller ones. These are perfect for a summer party or luau.
I got my musubi maker at Marukai, a Japanese grocery store in Los Angeles. If you can’t find one, no biggie–just shape the rice into rectangular pieces about the size of a tic tac box, perhaps a bit thicker.
In Japanese cooking, furikake is a condiment that’s commonly scattered over hot rice. The most common furikake seasonings have flakes of nori (dried seaweed), sesame seeds, or even bonito flakes in the mix, and are commonly used in musubi making.
What makes my musubi recipe extra special is my Green Tea Furikake that’s used to sprinkle over the rice layer of this onigiri. As you can see from my Homemade Washi Tea Tin, the mix is made with sencha green tea, a steamed Japanese green tea with a spinach-like taste. Korean red pepper flakes and toasted sesame seeds are also in my Green Tea Furikake, which I originally used to scatter over popcorn as a snack. Here, sprinkling this mixture over hot or warm rice helps to soften and bloom the tea, and the result is a musubi with a slight vegetal taste and boost of umami flavor.
And if you are feeling a bit lazy like I often do, you can skip the sushi making entirely and just place all the cooked musubi ingredients into a bowl. I got the idea to do this after Ngan over at Ngan Made It fried up some Panko Breaded Shrimp the other day. All the same tastes without the fuss–what a clever idea Ngan!
If you want a true taste of Hawaii, this is the recipe where it starts. Wrapped in little musubi packages or tossed in a bowl, these Bite-Size Spam Musubi are a simple way to appreciate the melding of Asian and American cultures in the islands. Be generous with the Green Tea Furikake–it’s that little something special that makes these local treats taste over-the-top amazing!
Bite-Size Spam Musubi with Green Tea Furikake
Makes 24 mini musubis.
1 can of Lite SPAM
3 Tbsp low-sodium teriyaki sauce or 3 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce mixed with 1-2 tsp of brown sugar
4 cups just-cooked medium or short grain white rice (I used Calrose), cooled to a temperature where you can handle it with your hands
4 sheets Nori dried seaweed
sharp chef’s knife
large piece of plastic wrap
musubi maker (optional)
bowl of water for making sushi
1.) Cut the SPAM. From each can of SPAM, you should get 8 large pieces (and 24 small pieces, enough for 24 Bite-Size Musubi). Slide the meat out of the package, then cut once in the middle to create two halves.
4.) Prep a work surface by laying down a large sheet of plastic wrap. With wet hands, scoop some of the prepared rice into a musubi maker that has just been run under cold water (this prevents sticking). Place enough rice in the mold so that when it is evenly compressed, it reaches 1″ up the mold. For my mold, I used about a 1/2 cup of cooked rice.
6.) Generously sprinkle the Green Tea Furikake on the rice block.