Vice did this whole thing with Spam during pandemic

Vice did this whole thing with Spam during pandemic

I wrote a recipe for Munchies. I wrote a recipe for a Spam Musubi birthday cake that went viral in Hawaii in a screenshot-in a good way. People were like, “Oh, my God. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this.” Or, “Oh, my gosh. I make a version of this.” It’s really a ridiculous thing. The problem with the screenshot is that you don’t see what the cake is actually made of. You just see a whole bunch of rice and some Spam on it.

Yeah, I love Spam

The Spam Musubirthday cake was made of a condiment called andasu. It’s Okinawan, where it’s typically miso mixed with sugar, rice wine, and pork fat. I made a version that recalled more of my Chinese heritage using chicken fat. I made a condiment that was chicken fat, rice wine, sugar, and white miso. I mixed it into hot rice, made a cake out of it, and then layered with fried egg and teriyaki-. It was really good. I had to make a whole bunch of them for recipe testing. Pretty much all my neighbors at some point got big chunks of this rice and chicken fat Spam cake. It went viral in Hawaii as a screenshot of me in a Spam colored dress staring at this clearly ridiculous rice and Spam birthday cake. Did you see the Spam can I crocheted?

That is a glorious object. Any other thoughts on how a commercial product or ingredient becomes so tied to Hawaii’s cuisine?

My dad grew up on Oahu. I also partially grew up on Oahu. But his family lived on Kauai for many generations, and over all these generations, there was a lot of inter actually what you’d call a poi dog, or a mutt. Many of fling our ancestors moved from different areas of the world to work on Hawaii’s sugar cane plantations. This is very, very common throughout most local families of Hawaii, there’s going to be a great ethnic diversity within one family, and there’s going to be a lot of history that involves the plantations. The plantations gave rise to Hawaii’s local food. I say “Hawaii’s local food” very deliberately, because that includes some Hawaiian food. But Hawaiian food is a distinct category in itself.

But there wasn’t really a very holistic way of looking at Hawaii’s resources because we imported and we still import the vast majority of our food from the mainland, which is ridiculous

Hawaiian is an ethnicity, and of course, there’s a cuisine attached to that ethnicity. Everybody else who came later on-the Portuguese, the Filipinos, Chinese, Koreans, and all the many different ethnic groups-took on each aspects of each other’s cuisines. They cook together, they have to live together, they have to put up with each other, and many of them intermarried. That grew into its own cuisine. It’s not fusion, because nobody came and took different aspects and smashed them together. The food that I grew up on, and the food that is the background of what I serve, exists, as a distinct cuisine. You have Korean Galbi on one plate that very comfortably sits next to macaroni salad, and that’s served with rice, of course, and obviously that’s a plate lunch.

This is something that has existed for decades, if not longer, and there, we have Hawaii’s local food. It’s a really interesting dichotomy of saying, “Hawaii’s local food.” Because when we say local in Hawaii, it doesn’t mean “of the place.” It means it was brought from another place and accepted into Hawaii. So that, we can call it local.

It’s looked like different things in the last, I would say, over the course of my lifetime. When I was a baby, the places to go were places that focused on using Pacific influences with French techniques, and there wasn’t, when I was a really little kid, such an emphasis on local ingredients. Maybe on some things, certain fish and certain vegetables. It’s so expensive. Even now, most of Hawaii’s milk comes from the mainland. Most of Hawaii’s food does come from the mainland. There’s that. It’s very hard to condense into just a few sentences.