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Spam and the Hawaiian Islands

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A recent dining experience at Waikikie Hawaiian BBQ, reminded me of Spam, that canned meat product made by the Hormel Company. It’s not been a popular staple in the contiguous United States since WWII, but it is still indispensible in our 50ith state. According to Wikipedia, Hawaiians are the second largest consumers of Spam in the world, right behind Guam.

Spam is used in local dishes in the islands in a variety of ways, most commonly fried. Local restaurants serve it many ways as a plate lunch featuring rice and a simple American macaroni salad. It is surprisingly tasty, better than I remember from childhood, and available locally at Waikikie Hawaiian BBQ. Two of their most popular Spam dishes are Spam Musubi a substantial appetizer ($2.99) and Spam Moco ($6.29) one of their combo plates.

Spam Musubi is a popular snack and lunch food in Hawaii that found its way onto menus in the 1980’s. It’s composed of a slice of grilled Spam atop of a block of rice, wrapped together with dried seaweed. Inexpensive and portable, spam musubi is found in convenience stores all over Hawaii. You can even make it at home. Hawaii is home to a mix of Asian cultures, but this dish is believed to have been created by Japanese and it looks like an oversized piece of sushi.

Spam Moco is a native Hawaiian breakfast or lunch dish. Fried spam is topped with eggs, white rice and brown gravy. A variation with hamburger patties is probably the original, however, and is called Loco Moco (also available at Waikikie for $6.29). According to Wikipedia, it may have been created in the 1940’s in Hilo, Hawaii. The word "loco moco" is Spanish for "crazy snot." Glad I tried the dish before I knew that. Loco moco can be found in various forms on many Pacific islands from Hawaii to Samoa to Guam and Saipan, and is also popular in Japan. Loco Moco is also the name of a Hawaiian-based restaurant chain that serves Hawaiian rice bowl dishes.

Another popular item is Chicken Katsu ($6.99), a chicken breast pounded thin, breaded and deep fried (the pork cutlet version is called Tonkatsu) found over much of Asia, particularly Japan.

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