By Nina Huang
Northwest Asian Weekly
SPAM. It’s more than just junk mail in your inbox. People have called it different names like “shoulder of pork and ham,” “spiced ham,” “specially-processed American meats,” and skeptics have called it “something posing as meat.”
What is it?
Hormel Foods Corporation first introduced SPAM, the pre-cooked canned meat product back in 1937. As labeled on its packaging, SPAM includes: pork with ham, mechanically separated chicken, water, salt, modified potato starch, sugar, sodium phosphates, potassium chloride, sodium ascorbate and sodium nitrite. In addition, the gelatinous glaze forms on the meat from the cooling of the meat stock.
History and growing popularity
If you grew up on the Hawaiian Islands, then you are no stranger to SPAM. In fact, you probably love it because you ate it often.
Reportedly, nearly 6 million cans of SPAM are eaten each year in Hawaii. That equates to about five cans per person.
According to the SPAM website, Hawaii’s love for SPAM began during World War II, when the canned meat was served to GIs because it was pre-cooked and had a long shelf life.
Hormel Foods Corporation provided 15 million cans to Allied troops every week, and the corporation had shipped over 100 million pounds overseas between 1941 and 1945.
With a strong Asian influence in Hawaii, SPAM has been incorporated into several common dishes including the popular SPAM musubi which is essentially a SPAM sushi that is a slice of SPAM over rice wrapped in nori seaweed.
SPAM, eggs, and rice is also a form of breakfast often found at Hawaiian restaurants and even at local McDonald’s and Burger King restaurants on the Hawaiian Islands.
In addition, in Korean cuisine, SPAM is used as one of the many ingredients in the Korean army base stew also known as “budae jjigae” in Korean.
SPAM can also be found in fried rice dishes, and because of the ease of cooking, several food trucks have integrated the meat product into their dishes such as SPAM sliders and SPAM mac and cheese.
And if the original SPAM flavor wasn’t enough, over the years, there have been different flavors of SPAM products that have come into fruition like SPAM Hot & Spicy with Tabasco flavor, SPAM Hickory Smoke flavor, and SPAM Garlic, etc. A 25% Less Sodium option of SPAM was also made available.
Not only is SPAM still popular on the Hawaiian Islands, the canned meat has been celebrated by Americans on the mainland for decades.
SPAM fans can even enter in the Great American SPAM Competition that takes place annually at various county fairs across the country. The competition is held to see who can create the best SPAM appetizer. Regional winners move onto the national competition for a chance to win a trip for two to the 2015 SPAM Jam, which is an annual food festival that takes place in Waikiki on Oahu, Hawaii. Last year, about 25,000 people attended the festival.
Whether you like it or not, there are many people who are serious about their SPAM. It has been around for decades, and there are no signs that it’s going away any time soon, especially with its indefinite expiration date. (end)
Nina Huang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.