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Spam musubi

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Spam musubi
A plate of freshly made Spam musubi.
Spam musubi made from Spam and rice
Place of originUnited States
Region or stateHawaii
Serving temperatureHot or cold
Main ingredientsSpam, rice, nori, soy sauce
Spam musubi are commonly sold in convenience stores packaged in plastic boxes.

Spam musubi is a snack and lunch food composed of a slice of grilled Spam sandwiched either in between or on top of a block of rice, wrapped together with nori in the tradition of Japanese onigiri.

Inexpensive and portable, Spam musubi are commonly found near cash registers in convenience stores or mom-and-pop shops all over Hawaii, the Marianas and Hawaiian Barbecue restaurants in the mainland United States.[1] Musubi can be easily made with the right materials, and typically only uses spam, rice, some salt, nori and shoyu (soy sauce). In Hawaii, musubi with spam from a can or homemade luncheon meat is eaten as a snack or served in formal restaurants.[2]


Spam musubi is a form of musubi, which originally came from Hawaii. It was a popular item among the lunchboxes of Hawaiian plantation workers.[3]

The origin of Spam musubi is disputed. Survivors of the Japanese American internment camps on the mainland of the United States claim to have invented the precursor to Spam musubi, when they placed seasoned slices of Spam on white rice in a baking pan.[4] However, most origin stories focus on Spam's ubiquity in Hawaii during and in the aftermath of World War II. With few other options, the canned meat was incorporated into local cuisines wherever American troops were stationed. For example, South Korea's budae-jjigae, a stew of surplus U.S. military foods, included Spam. In the United Kingdom, where Spam was ubiquitous during the hardship of the post-War years, Spam acquired a stigma exemplified by the 1970 Monty Python sketch. Spam may not have been abandoned in the Pacific like it was in the U.K. simply because of the comparative economic deprivation experienced in the Pacific region.[5]

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin said of Spam musubi in 2002 that "There is no definitive history for this aberration." Still, the newspaper relayed that a 2001 cookbook stated that the potential creator is Mitsuko Kaneshiro, who began selling them out of City Pharmacy on Pensacola Street in Honolulu and by the early 1980s was selling 500 handmade Spam musubi a day out of her own shop, Michan's Musubi.[6] The other person said to be the creator of Spam musubi is Barbara Funamura of Kauai. Funamura sold Spam musubi out of the Joni-Hana restaurant in the Kukui Grove Center. The Garden Island in 1983 described it as, "Spam and rice, two local favorites, are combined in an enormous musubi (rice ball) wrapped in nori (sheets of dried seaweed)." Eventually Funamura's musubi was made using a box mold, taking on its familiar form.[7]

In 1999, L&L Hawaiian Barbecue introduced the Hawaii regional snack as a menu item in its first mainland U.S. restaurant in Puente Hills, California.[8] As the Hawaii-based chain grew across several American states, so did the awareness and popularity of the snack, eventually becoming a mainstay on the menu, and making L&L the first restaurant chain to make the snack available nationally.[9]

On August 8, 2021, L&L Hawaiian Barbecue established "National Spam Musubi Day" to celebrate the iconic snack from Hawaii. The holiday was officially recognized by Hawaii Governor David Y. Ige. with a public proclamation.[10]

Spam musubi is the serving suggestion on tins of Teriyaki flavor Spam.[11] Spam Musubi, generally together with egg and sometimes called Potama (for Pork+Tamago/Egg), is a staple of Okinawan cuisine.[12][13] The nori is generally larger and wraps the entire sandwich.


Typical preparation begins with grilling or frying slices of Spam, sometimes with a light teriyaki flavor. It uses a sauce in which soy sauce and granulated sugar are typically the basic ingredients. Using a mold the same size as a slice of Spam, a layer of cooked rice is pressed down over a strip of nori, with a slice of Spam on top of that, and then, optionally, another layer of rice. The mold is removed and the nori is wrapped over the top and around the musubi.[14] Guam's Pacific Daily News describes the local version: "a slice of Spam is bathed in teriyaki sauce before topping a mound of rice with a dash of furikake and wrapped in a strip of nori."[15] Another Guam recipe calls for Sriracha mayonnaise.[16]

See also[edit]

  • Cuisine of Hawaii – Food and drinks from Hawaii
  • Loco moco – Dish in Hawaiian cuisine, another Hawaiian dish that can involve rice and Spam
  • Onigiri – Japanese rice ball, the original musubi
  • Gimbap – Korean dish
  • Göteborg musubi – Göteborg musubi from Kauai, Hawaii


  1. ^ Korfhage, Matthew (7 February 2021). "At Virginia's only location of L&L, plate-lunch barbecue like you'd get it in Hawaii". Hawaii News Now.
  2. ^ Chew, Cynthia (1 November 2015). "The Land of SPAM". The Food Pornographer.
  3. ^ Harada, Wayne (25 April 1989). "Musubi madness". The Honolulu Advertiser. Honolulu, Hawaii. p. 15. Retrieved 25 August 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  4. ^ Toth Fox, Catherine (24 June 2015). "The History of Five Local Grinds". Hawaii Magazine. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  5. ^ Li, Ang (28 May 2019). "Asian American Chefs Are Embracing Spam. But How Did the Canned Meat Make Its Way Into Their Cultures?". Time. Retrieved 19 March 2021.
  6. ^ Shimabukuro, Betty (19 June 2002). "The musubi mystique". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Retrieved 19 March 2021.
  7. ^ Fujimoto, Dennis (24 May 2016). "Spam musubi lives on". The Garden Island. Retrieved 19 March 2021.
  8. ^ Lynch, Russ (26 November 1999). "L&L Drive-Inn restaurateur seeking mainland meal ticket". Honolulu Star-Bulletin.
  9. ^ Sietsema, Robert (24 April 2015). "Hawaiian Food Surfs Into NYC on a Wave of Spam". Eater.
  10. ^ Staff, Web (2 September 2021). "First National Spam Musubi Day sold over 24,000 musubis". khon2.com.
  11. ^ "SPAM® Teriyaki - SPAM® Varieties". SPAM.com. Retrieved 21 October 2023.
  12. ^ Fusek, Alyssa Pearl (27 March 2023). "Spam Onigiri: How Spam Migrated to Hawaii and Japan". Unseen Japan. Retrieved 12 October 2023.
  13. ^ "ポーたま TOP". ポーたま|pork tamago onigiri (in Japanese). Retrieved 12 October 2023.
  14. ^ Kysar, Alana (2019). "Spam Musubi". Aloha Kitchen: Recipes From Hawai'i. Ten Speed Press. Retrieved 14 March 2021 – via Wright-Ruiz, Kiera; The New York Times.
  15. ^ Martinez, Lacee A. C. (15 June 2016). "Shortcut sushi: Spam musubi and sushi (non) bake". Pacific Daily News. Retrieved 19 March 2021.
  16. ^ "Traditional Spam Musubi". Guam Pay-Less Markets. Retrieved 19 March 2021.

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