National Spam Musubi Day is on August 8, providing the perfect reminder to munch on delicious foods, or grinds as they’re called in Hawaii.
Spam musubi is a Hawaiian snack that resembles an enormous piece of sushi. It is a block of sticky rice topped with a slice of fried Spam adhered together with teriyaki sauce and wrapped with a rectangle-shaped sheet of nori, a dehydrated and snackable seaweed.
But unlike the more miniature sushi and onigiri counterparts from Japan — these hearty Spam treats are about half the size of a sandwich.
The Spam component is made of ham and pork shoulder meat with potato starch, water, sugar, sodium nitrate, and salt. And while Spam is generally salty, in musubi, the flavor is balanced with sticky rice and tangy teriyaki sauce.
Chewy and umami in flavor, nori ties the Hawaiian snack together. And, aesthetically, nori’s jet black color and shininess clash nicely with the bright white sushi rice and pink Spam with sear marks.
Spam, made by Hormel, first hit US supermarkets in 1937. Then four years later, during World War II, American soldiers brought the canned meat to Hawaii, as it was small in size, leakproof, had great shelf life in backpacks, and provided much needed protein during wartime.
Shortly afterward, in the mid 1940s, Spam grew as a popular protein alternative due to a national meat shortage. The meat shortage was felt more so in Hawaii, as it’s separated from the mainland’s direct train-and-truck supply chains. Accordingly, boatloads of Spam cans were shipped into the islands, where Spam became a hit.
It was infused in many recipes in Hawaii, and spam, eggs, and rice is an island favorite until this day, even found at McDonald’s.
In 1983, a family restaurant in Kaua’i — one of the state’s five major islands — created Spam musubi’s first editions. Early Spam musubid resembled Japanese onigiri, triangular-shaped rice appetizers. Then, Spam musubi blew up both in popularity and size.
While Spam musubi is the most known of the musubi family, all types of musubi exist in metro Phoenix. At these Valley restaurants, every day is Musubi Day.
L&L Hawaiian Barbecue
2501 West Happy Valley Road, Suite 50-1250
L&L is one of the original Hawaiian-themed restaurant chains that made it into the mainland. The franchise revolves around the Hawaiian plate lunch, barbecue bowls, seafood combos, and Spam musubi. To celebrate the national holiday, participating L&L Hawaiian Barbecue restaurants will give out a free Spam musubi to visitors who sign up on their app.
Golden Hawaiian BBQ
1760 West Chandler Boulevard, Chandler
At Golden Hawaiian BBQ in Chandler, pick from a menu of made-to-order Hawaiian plates and many musubi options, ranging from traditional to spicy, and chicken. One order of traditional Spam musubi includes two pieces for $6.60.
Ono Hawaiian BBQ
This chain has multiple locations throughout the Valley. At Ono Hawaiian BBQ on East Thomas Road in Phoenix, musubis are served a bit differently — with minimal teriyaki sauce. Instead, the restaurant has dispensers of teriyaki sauce and katsu sauce, providing customers the option of dousing the musubi pieces in as much tangy sauce as they desire.
Ono also offers shrimp musubi, although they aren’t on the menu. These snacks, packed with two breaded shrimp are a special request item and cost an extra $2.50 per order. Katsu sauce is the better option for the shrimp variation. Spam musubi here costs $5.99 for two pieces, while shrimp musubi costs $7.49.
Maui Hawaiian Grill
219 East Baseline Road, Tempe
At Maui Hawaiian Grill, Kalua combos, Maui, and Aloha plates are loaded with Hawaiian-flavored meats and fish dishes. They also prepare Spam musubi, for $4.99 per pair, and other tasty appetizers.
Leo’s Island BBQ
7665 West Bell Road, Peoria
Leo’s Island BBQ prepares hearty portions of Hawaiian plate lunches packed with meat or seafood and sides of macaroni, steamed rice, and cabbage. They also make chicken katsu and island fish musubi variations, along with the original Spam version. Two pieces cost $5.39.
T&Y Hawaiian BBQ
6756 West Camelback Road, Glendale
T&Y Hawaiian BBQ is a fusion restaurant serving dishes from China, Korea, Japan, and Hawaii, making the restaurant unique from the aforementioned musubi locales. Spam musubi here cost $4.99 for two pieces.