Many people harbor a great, if unspoken, love for SPAM. Me, not so much. It’s not that I dislike the stuff, I’ve just never been sure how to eat it — or why, really. Today I stumbled on the answer: SPAM musubi rolls.
This discovery came about serendipitously via a promotion. Apparently, the Austin, MN-based SPAM Brand has challenged chefs across the country to come up with limited-edition recipes featuring its new Jalapeño and Black Pepper SPAM flavors. Locally, chef Kosuke Zaworski at United Noodles’ UniDeli has taken up the gauntlet with two new SPAM musubi rolls. We were invited to preview the rolls, and I’m here to say they are well worth a visit, promotion or no. (Although, if you go during the promotion, SPAM will make a donation to Second Harvest Heartland. See details below.)
Zaworski has been serving SPAM musubi rolls (2 for $3.50), a popular Hawaiian snack, using SPAM Classic for about a year. Although the chef serves primarily Japanese food — which he cheerfully asserts the SPAM musubi roll is not — he added the dish at the request of his wife, and the deli’s many Hawaiian customers have received it with enthusiasm.
The roll is a thin slice of SPAM fried to a nice char in the soy sauce, layered atop plain, short grain white rice, spices, and eel sauce, and wrapped with a thin sheet of seaweed. The result is a perfect savory bite in which the crisp seaweed and sauce’s sweet, hickory notes enhance the natural SPAM flavors, and the rice absorbs the lion’s share of the salt. Think of it as a Hawaiian SPAM sandwich.
The peppers in SPAM Jalapeño are very understated, much like a very mild pepperoncini. To bring out more of the flavor, Zaworski has combined it with a lively radish pickle and spices — a light blend that includes sesame seeds, dried fish roe, and green tea — creating a roll that is pleasantly salty-sweet and crunchy.
In contrast, the SPAM Black Pepper is quite spicy. In the musubi roll, it is stacked on a thin but rich bed of creamy Japanese mayonnaise and roasted sesame seeds blended with paprika. It had a nice kick and, overall, was the best of a highly satisfying trio of rolls.
Zaworski says the recipes for the rolls are no secret; he’s intentionally made them with ingredients stocked at United Noodles so that people can make them at home. In addition to the ingredients listed and pictured above, he recommends using a half sheet of the blue grade sushi nori seaweed for each roll. Bonus tip: In Hawaii home cooks cut off the bottom of the SPAM can and use it as a mold.
The limited-edition rolls (2 for $3.50) will be available at UniDeli from July 28 to August 10. As part of the recipe challenge, SPAM will donate $5 to Second Harvest Heartland — up to $5,000 — for every limited-edition SPAM musubi roll purchased. Second Harvest Heartland is a hunger relief organization that collects and distributes more than 76 million pounds of food in the Upper Midwest each year.
2015 E 24th St
Minneapolis, MN 55404
Chef: Kosuke Zaworski
ENTREE RANGE: $5.25-$9
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes (limited)