Spam Misubi is an Hawaiian-Japanese adaptation of a rice ball dating from WWII. Daughter Eilene loves them, but mother, Jan, will not allow Spam in the house. Jan is teaching a night class, so I thought I would make Eilene spam misubi for dinner.
Note: You must understand that Jan’s dislike of Spam has nothing to do with the product itself, but Jan has forbidden me from telling the story.
Spam mitsubi is a perfect little meal in itself. Starch, protein, and vegetable in a tight little package. In addition to being a sea vegetable, the nori does three things: Acting as a seasoning, keeping the spam and rice from falling apart, and keeping your hands clean from the sticky rice.
Cold from the can—although fully cooked—Spam is pretty unappealing. It is important for misubi that at the very least you should fry it before putting it on top of the rice. Marinating the meat first is also a good idea.
While you can form the rice cake with your hands, a good Japanese store sells a special acrylic form. It has a clear box—exactly the same size as a slice of spam—open on both ends, and a flat press. You place the box on a strip of nori and add the rice. Pressing down produces a compacted rectangle of rice. After topping the rice with the Spam, pressing down again seals the rice and meat together.
After Dinner Note: Eilene was surprised at the sushi rice. Apparently, locally they make mitsubi with plain, unseasoned rice.
Karl’s Spam Misubi
Ingredients for four mitsubi
1 cup Japanese short grained rice
2 Tbs. rice vinegar, unseasoned
2 Tbs. mirin
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 (7 oz.) can Spam
1 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. mirin
1 tsp. oil
3 green onions
2 sheets nori
1. Steam your rice.
2. While the rice is cooking, mix the vinegar, mirin, salt, and sugar.
Tip: Stir the mixture (sushi-su) to dissolve the salt and sugar.
3. Once your rice is done, spread it out on a wide shallow casserole to cool.
Note: The Japanese have a special tools to make sushi rice: a wooden tub (hangiri) and a wooden paddle (shamoji).
4. Pour the sushi-su over the rice and fluff the rice to coat every grain with the seasoning.
Tip: Add the liquid in small amounts. Your goal it to cover every grain of rice without ending up with “soggy” rice.
Note: You do not want to mash the rice as you mix. You want slightly dry, individual, sticky grains. The Japanese experts fan the rice, as they mix the rice, to dry the grains more quickly.
5. Slice the Spam into four even slabs—about ⅜ of an inch thick.
6. Dissolve the sugar in the soy sauce and mirin in a shallow dish.
7. Marinate the Spam in the mixture for at least 15 minutes.
8. Pat the meat dry with a paper towel and fry the Spam in a little oil, until well browned.
9. Set the Spam aside to cool.
10. Slice the green parts of the onion on a steep diagonal and set them aside.
Tip: Save the white parts for another dish.
11. Cut the nori into 2-2½ inch strips.
Tip: The normal method is to use 2 inch strips of nori, which leaves more of the rice and meat exposed on the ends of the mitsubi.
Note: I cut my nori into 2½ inch strips which left two 1½ inch strips. They I tore in half and laid them the long way to keep the rice from sticking on the bottom.
12. Make a “T” with the nori strips and place the box part of the press over the cross bar.
Tip: Laying down a sheet of plastic wrap helps keep the rice from sticking to your work surface during assembly.
13. Add sushi rice to the box.
Tip: Filling the box ¾ full with the loose rice creates a rice cake that is about the same thickness as the slice of Spam. If you are hungry, you may fill the box with rice to make a thicker cake.
14. Push down on the rice with the press to compact the rice.
15. Remove the press and sprinkle some of the green onion on top of the rice.
16. Top the rice and onions with the Spam and press down on the meat to seal the ingredients into a tight bar.
17. Holding down the press, pull up on the box to remove the mitsubi.
Tip: The rice is very sticky, by pressing and lifting up at the same time, you keep the ingredients from falling apart as you remove the form.
18. Fold the ends of the strip of nori over the misubi.
Tip: Wet the end of the nori strip with water to glue the band shut.
19. Repeat until you are out of ingredients.
20. Let the mitsubi rest for 15 minutes, to set firmly.
21. Enjoy with a splash of soy sause.
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