Spam Breaks Sales Records Thanks to Rise of Hawaiian Cuisine
Creative Commons photo by Froschmann is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Here are some of Sunset‘s favorite ways to eat the American classic meat and other Hawaiian-inspired foods
Spam has been an integral part of everyday food for Hawaii residents since it was introduced in 1937. Now, more than 80 years later, the salty slices of meat can be found on menus across the islands, served as spam musubi, spam fried rice, or the classic breakfast of spam, eggs, and rice. There’s even the annual Waikiki Spam Jam, a Spam-themed street festival in Honolulu celebrating people’s love for the canned meat with merchandise, spam-centric food stalls, and art displays.
But it turns out Hawaii is not the only state with an affinity for spam. The $3 canned meat is as popular as ever, with Hormel Foods reporting that Spam had its fifth consecutive year of record sales—that would be $220 million dollars in U.S. sales during 2019.
Its popularity has spawned flavors beyond the original, tweaked to fit the tastes of Hawaii locals, stateside Americans, and growing markets like China. Now consumers can choose from Teriyaki, Chorizo, Portuguese Sausage Seasoning, Tocino, Jalapeño, and more. So, if all this talk has you craving a sizzling slice of the American classic meat, here’s one of our favorite Spam recipes plus six more Hawaiian-inspired dishes to make alongside it.
Hawaiian Pig-Out Burgers
Grilled spam, pineapple, and Maui onion make these pork burgers a sweet, salty, and formidable way to enjoy the classic lunchmeat.
Fried Rice with Flowers
Fried rice is a staple in many Hawaii households. Sprinkle just a few edible flowers on top (folded into butter for dolloping onto the hot rice) to give this dish an unexpected topping. Any rice dish is a great vehicle for spam, if you’re feeling so inclined.
Hawaiian-Style Grilled Chicken (Huli Huli Chicken)
This tangy, sweet chicken recipe comes from Alan Kysar, author of Aloha Kitchen: Recipes from Hawaii. “Huli huli, which translates to ‘turn turn,’ is a local-style barbecue chicken that is grilled and basted on a spit,” Kysar says. “The sweet marinade burns a bit, so I recommend you grill outside to avoid smoking up your house and setting off the fire alarms!”
Caramelized Maui Onion Dip
If you always find yourself with a bag of Hawaiian Kettle Style Sweet Maui Onion Potato Chips in your shopping cart at the grocery store, try this Caramelized Maui Onion Dip. Just be sure to make this at least an hour ahead of time to let the flavors develop.
This straightforward Tuna Poke uses soy sauce, sesame oil, chili oil, ponzu, garlic, green onion, cilantro, and sesame seeds for a timeless combination you’ll want to keep in your recipe Rolodex.
Tuna Poke on Nori Crackers
San Francisco chef and owner of Liholiho Yacht Club, Ravi Kapur, scoops ahi poke onto crunchy crackers made of nori seaweed at his Hawaiian islands-inspired restaurant. You can swap ahi for salmon, cobia, albacore, or halibut.
Steamed Mahimahi Laulau
Glossy, green Hawaiian ti (“tee”) leaves are traditionally used both to wrap food (like these soft mahimahi filets) and in flower arrangements. You can easily find ti leaves on Amazon, or use banana leaves instead.