I’m from the west coast of Canada in an area where hipsters abound, and the idea of an upscale sushi restaurant in New York called Sushi Ko serving up SPAM got my hipster sense tingling. Surely, an upscale trendy restaurant is using SPAM ironically? Perhaps my location has made me suspicious of hipsters trying hard to be counter-culture, but Sushi Ko’s head chef seems to genuinely love SPAM and working it into his cooking in an authentic and delicious way. The idea of Sushi Ko is Omakase style dining, meaning that the chef chooses the dishes of the day. And while I might be a little weirded out by spam sushi, it’s apparently not such a rare treat. To me, it seems incredibly bizarre, but after doing a little more research into SPAM sushi around the world I realized it’s not such a novel idea.
Spam is incredibly popular in Hawaii. So popular, in fact, that the official SPAM website has a section in their faq dedicated to answering why, exactly this is. The section reaches back into history, going back to World War II when the luncheon meat was served to GIs and was quickly and voraciously adopted into local culture. One take on the dish is SPAM Musubi. Spam is grilled, molded, and served nigiri style on rice and wrapped in nori. While you might gets some shocked looks in any other part of the world, Spam sushi wouldn’t turn a head in Hawaii.
And Spam sushi isn’t just limited to nigiri. You can find maki roll recipes on the net, where SPAM is paired with a limitless number of other ingredients, wrapped up in rice and nori and served up “fresh.” I tend to prefer more traditional sushi dishes, but I have to say if I was offered Spam sushi, I would find it tough to resist out of sheer curiosity. Who knows, maybe the saltiness of Spam combined with the sushi rice and nori could work? When I read about Sushi Ko’s tasting menu featuring that ubiquitous dish from a can, it seemed certain that Spam Sushi was a way for yuppies to go out to an upscale dinner and use Spam sushi as a talking point for one-upping their friends. After a little research, I’m not so sure!