The latest hot menu item at swank New York City restaurants is Spam, according to The Gothamist. Earlier today, the city news site reported that the canned meat product is popping up on upscale menus, like the $135 tasting menu at New York Sushi Co, which recently featured a bowl of Spam fried rice topped with seared ahi tuna and chunks of fresh pineapple. The New York Observer was quick to agree that Spam is the city’s latest buzzworthy food item.
While Spam may only just now be gaining recognition as a bona fide trend, it’s been slowly creeping into gourmet culture for a while now. Last December, The New York Times reviewed Onomea, a Hawaiian restaurant in Brooklyn that serves Spam Musubi, described by The Times as a dish “in which the meat product is fried until it sweats salt and sugar, then pressed into rice with a flurry of furikake, a briny-nutty Japanese seasoning of seaweed, dried fish and sesame seeds.”
While Spam is often seen as a joke in the United States, relegated to gag gifts and referenced as part of a famous Monty Python sketch, it’s a food staple in Hawaii, where it became popular following U.S. Occupation in World War II. In Hawaii, Spam Musubi is a staple dish, served at chain restaurants like McDonald’s and Burger King. It’s even available in varieties not found on the mainland, such as Honey Spam, Spam with Bacon, and Hot and Spicy Spam.
The Spam that’s turning up in New York City, though, isn’t of the fast food variety. Some other menus serving Spam (as turned up by Examiner) include the Korean restaurant Sik Gaek in Woodside, where the add-ons to one of their spicy Hot Pots include razor clams, scallops, or a slice of Spam. At Yaya Tea Garden, fried Spam is one of the many sushi options. Evoking the previously mentioned comedy sketch, the Sunway Cafe serves Spam and eggs.
So, if you’re dying to try a new big-city food trend, skip the artisan ingredients, and just open a can. “While Spam's reputation may always precede it”, says Gothamist, “ it's clear that New Yorkers are starting to recognizing its virtues, thanks to a small but growing handful of chefs and business owners, a feat in an increasingly health conscious food scene.”
Would you order Spam in a restaurant, or have you spotted it on any menus in your city? Weigh in below.