Hawaii’s love affair with Spam

Spam, that processed canned pork product with the distinctive blue and yellow packaging, is incredibly popular in Hawaii. In fact, Hawaiians eat, on average, five cans of Spam every year. Five cans!

Spam’s Hawaiian Origin Story

Spam, short for SPiced hAM, was invented as a way to market the relatively unpopular pork shoulder cut. Due to the added chemicals in Spam, refrigeration wasn’t needed.

A few years after Spam’s introduction, the U.S. Army was looking for a way to add protein in their soldiers’ diet. But, getting fresh meat to the front lines during WWII was a logistical nightmare. Shelf-stable Spam was the solution and sales skyrocketed.

This was especially true in Hawaii. Food shortages were always a fear on the island chain since most supplies arrived by boat and an interruption in the supply chain was always a possibility during wartime.

Soldiers stationed in Hawaii were given rations of Spam. You can get an idea of how popular the processed pork suspended in a glob of gelatin was by the nicknames it was given. SPecial Army Meat might’ve been the most kind description. But it was also referred to “ham that didn’t pass the physical” and “meatloaf without basic training.” Not exactly high praise.

Hawaiians, on the other hand, were happy to get any source of protein in their diet and quickly adapted recipes to feature Spam.

Hawaiian Spam Dishes

Today, you can find Spam in all kinds of Hawaiian dishes. Even fast food joints like Burger King and Jack in the Box offer Spam menu items. McDonald’s secret menu in Hawaii offers a Spam McMuffin. And, every spring, there’s a Spam Festival in Honolulu

Spam Musubi

With a large Japanese population, it should come as no surprise that Spam is paired with rice and nori (seaweed) to create Spam Musubi. The rice is placed in the empty Spam can and molded into shape. A grilled piece of Spam is placed on top of the molded rice and the whole thing is wrapped in nori.

You don’t have to look hard to find Spam Musubi in Hawaii. They’re for sale beside the cash register of almost every convenience store on the islands. 7-11 says their Hawaiian stores sell thousands Spam Musubi each year.

Loco Moco

Loco Moco is comfort food dish in Hawaii. Traditionally, Loco Moco is a scoop of rice topped with a hamburger patty, fried egg, and gravy. But, there is a variation of Loco Moco that substitutes Spam for the hamburger patty.

If you’re looking for Loco Moco, Da Kitchen in Maui is the place to go.

And, if you don’t like Spam, there’s always Monty Python to keep you entertained.

About the Author

Brent Petersen is the Editor-in-Chief of Destination Eat Drink. He currently resides in Setubal, Portugal. Brent has written the novel “Truffle Hunt” (Eckhartz Press) and the short story collection “That Bird.” He’s also written dozens of foodie travel guides to cities around the world on Destination Eat Drink, including in-depth eating and drinking guides to Lisbon, PortoSintraMonsaraz, and Evora in Portugal. Brent’s podcast, also called Destination Eat Drink, is available on all major podcasting platforms and is distributed by the Radio Misfits Podcast Network.

Author: Brent