Tuesday, July 27, 2010
I'd like to say that the idea for Spam sushi was an original one (and I did come up with it myself), but it turns out that the Hawaiians have been making and eating it for ages. They call it "musubi." Were it up to me, I'd name it "spushi."
So my idea was to make regular sushi, but instead of topping it with raw fish, I'd use fried Spam. Easy, right? Maybe it would've been, had I known how to make regular sushi in the first place. It turns out that my frequent consumption of sushi is not an indicator of how well I'd fare at making it. The Spam was the least of my culinary problems (as instant foods should be); I simply fried it and cut it into sushi-size pieces. It was the rice that gave me trouble.
Sushi rice is notoriously difficult to get right and, as it turns out, to work with. I prepared my rice in a rice cooker, then added a boiled mixture of vinegar, olive oil, sugar, and salt. (The recipe below has you preparing your rice on the stove, as I'd imagine that most people don't own a rice cooker.) The rice got really wet and sticky, and generally refused to behave itself. When I tried to mold it into a mound, the grains stuck to my fingers instead of each other. Finally, I let the rice sit for 15 minutes, during which time it solidified a bit and became easier to work with. I also got out my trusty bamboo mat, which is typically used to make maki (Japanese rolls) but is also very good at shaping little mounds of rice for sushi.
After figuring out the rice, I cut a sheet of seaweed into long, thin strips. Then I placed a strip on a plate, transferred a mound of rice onto it, topped the rice with a piece of Spam, and folded the strip around the whole thing.
All in all, making Spam sushi is more work than I care to put into a faux gourmet dish, but the results are delicious. The super-saltiness of the Spam and the vinegary-ness of the rice play off each other the way good instant haute cuisine should.
1 cup sushi rice
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup vinegar
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 can Spam
1 sheet dried seaweed
1. Rinse the rice in a colander until the water runs clear. Combine with the water in a small pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes. The rice is ready when tender. Fluff it in the pot, and let cool for 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, combine the vinegar, oil, sugar and salt in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Cool, and stir into the cooked rice. Let stand for 15 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, slice the Spam into 1/2-inch-thick pieces, and fry in an unoiled pan for 5 minutes on each side. (You should be using only about a third of the whole Spam block.) Transfer the pieces to a cutting board, and cut into smaller, sushi-size pieces.
4. Cut the sheet of dried seaweed into 1/2-inch strips.
5. Mold the rice into approximately 8 to 10 small mounds, about 2 1/2 inches long and 1 inch wide. Lay a strip of seaweed on a dry surface. Transfer one mound of rice onto the seaweed, lying perpendicularly, and top with a piece of Spam. Fold the seaweed strip around the whole thing, tucking one end underneath. Repeat with remaining material. Serve immediately. Serves two.