Saturday, June 19, 2010

International tastes. (国際的な味。)

Encouraged by popular demand (aka two comments from one person), I am continuing our non-cell-phone theme with another installment of everyone's favorite culinary series, Cooking with Edo!

(Yes, "non-cell-phone" is a perfectly valid and legitimate theme. So what if it's a little broad? It's certainly accurate.)

Today, as may be surmised by my clever title, we will not be discussing Japanese cuisine so much as Hawaiian-Japanese cuisine. But variety is the spice of life, eh?

...what's that? Japan blog, you say? It still relates! It's not as though I'm discussing the finer points pure Hawaiian cookery; I'm not telling you how to make poi or anything. No, no, as this recipe incorporates white sticky  rice, のり, 味醂 and 醤油, I'd say it fits quite nicely into my blog's overarching constructs.

The fact that I really, really like it doesn't hurt, either.

(Quick glossary:
のり (nori)- seaweed; that green stuff that is typically on the outside of sushi rolls
味醂 (mirin)- a sweet type of sake that is used in cooking; usually labeled as "sweet rice wine" or "cooking rice wine"
醤油 (shouyu)- soy sauce)

... I suppose I should actually get to the recipe.

Spam Musubi

(This is actually not a picture of my most recent batch, but... well... let's just say this last time I wasn't quite quick enough with the camera.)

Yes, yes, I know I said the word dreaded by epicureans everywhere (spam), but please, hear me out! You have no conception of the glorious experience you are denying your taste buds!

...not convinced, you say? Well, don't blame me when your friends are raving about this marvelous recipe, and you're feeling left out because you weren't brave enough to try a just little bit of processed meat.

Think of it as an adventure.

Now, let me preface this by saying that I learned the "recipe" from one of my Japanese professors (who is herself from Hawaii) during a dinner party, and thus I have never really had anything written down. It's very much a "play-it-by-taste" recipe, so you should probably be comfortable with that style of cooking before you attempt this.

But hey, who am I to warn away the go-getters? Have at it, kids.

You will need:

  Sticky Rice (~3 Cups)
  Water (Amount depends on what your rice cooker says to do with that much rice.)
  Spam (One can; I use the regular stuff, but you can feel free to try it with the low-fat or turkey varieties.)
  Nori (Five sheets halved to fit your sushi mold; eyeball it.)
  Mirin (to taste)
  Shouyu (to taste)
   Rice Cooker (or pot if you prefer)
   Non-stick Saute Pan
   Sushi Mold (looks like this)
   Plastic Wrap
   2 Shallow Bowls
   A Plate
... so I used the Alton Brown terminology. Alton Brown is a great man who makes being a loquacious geek cool! He teaches me fascinating things about food, and isn't afraid to be a weirdo on national television! Using his terminology is merely one way in which I can demonstrate my...

Er... right.

Anyway. Begin by cooking your rice, since you can do the other prep work in the down-time that rice cooking generally creates. Follow the instructions on your rice cooker, or follow this recipe for stove-top cooking (sorry guys, I rely on my crummy little rice cooker and therefore have nary a clue when it comes to rice on the stove.) After you have it started, it's time to begin with the spam.

Oh, quit your whining, it's good stuff.

Take the spam out of the can, and slice it up vertically (or rather, lay it down on its side and slice that way, so the slices are long and thin rather than short and stubby.) If my slicing instructions have left you in the dark, use your sushi mold as a guide--these things are sometimes called spam musubi molds for a reason, after all--and cut the spam so that one slice will fit inside the bottom of the mold nicely. You'll see why in a bit. I usually get between ten and eleven slices out of one can of spam, depending on how thick I'm cutting that day. You can go for less if you like your spam thick, but I've found that the flavor ratio turns out best with the ten-eleven slice thickness.

Have your pan on the stove, ready to go, but not yet over heat. It doesn't have to be non-stick, but trust me, it makes things a lot easier (yes, I have done it both ways; I speak from experience here.) Place your spam (theoretically still on the cutting board) to one side, and one of your shallow bowls between the spam and the pan. Break out the shouyu and mirin, and combine to taste. You're going to be marinating the spam in this mixture, so keep that in mind as you're tasting it. I prefer it on the salty side, and thus tend to add more shouyu than mirin. Don't be too heavy handed with either, though, or you're going to be dumping a lot of liquid at the end. Unless, of course, you've discovered some ingenious use for a slightly spammy shouyu-mirin mixture that you'd care to share...?

(My professor originally said that you should add sugar to this mix, but I see no need to whatsoever. Then again, I am not the biggest fan of sweet things, especially when combined with savory ingredients like spam.  Should you feel that your marinade is missing something, remember that sugar is an option and feel free to incorporate it.)

Once your marinade is ready, dunk a piece of spam in, coating both sides liberally, and then place it in the pan. Continue until the pan is full (but not crowded!) and turn on the heat to a good medium. You shouldn't need any lubrication for the pan, since spam is so very fatty on its own--and we're using non-stick, remember!

Now, this is where it gets tricky--depending on the size of your pan and how many slices of spam you have to fry up, you're going to need some fast handwork here. Flip your cooking spam a few times, just to brown it up on both sides (it's already cooked, remember.) When it is sufficiently darkened for your tastes, remove it to a plate nearby. The idea is to constantly have a full load of spam in the pan, but if you're uncomfortable with this kind of hustle, don't worry about it and take your time; it's not like the spam has anywhere else to be, after all.

Continue with the dunk-then-fry method until all of the spam has been browned sufficiently. Cover the fried spam plate with aluminum foil to keep the meat warm until you're ready to work with it.

While you're waiting for the rice (as I presume you still will be at this point), begin setting up your assembly station. Take a piece of nori ( already torn, of course; you remembered that step, right?) and lay it on the counter (or cutting board if you so choose.) Place the bottom half of your sushi mold over the nori; the nori should stick out significantly past the long sides of the mold, but meet up fairly evenly with the short sides:

Aren't my MSPaint skills impressive? (No, it's probably not quite to scale; quit being so picky.)

(Note- You don't necessarily need a sushi mold to make this dish; it just makes things neat, compact, and the proper shape. I'm sure, however, that free-form musubi taste just as nice as their molded brethren, and would love to hear from you if you try this method out.)

Fill your second small bowl with cold water, and dunk the top of your sushi mold in it to prevent it from sticking to the rice.

Once your rice is actually done (and you've waited the appropriate amount of time for the excess water to evaporate!) load a small scoop into your mold. (Unfortunately, I can't tell you exactly how much; it really depends on your tastes and how much rice is left in the bowl.) Place a slice of spam on top, and then another scoop of rice on top of that. Press the whole thing down with the top of your sushi mold, and while pressing down, pull the bottom of the mold up and off (so as to free your musubi.) You can do this without holding down on the top if you'd like, but this way is much easier. After you've removed the bottom half of the mold, peel the top away from the rice; if you dunked it like I said, it shouldn't stick too horribly. If it does, just jiggle it a bit, doing your best not to knock over your little tower of goodness.

Now, fold the nori over the spam and rice package, one side over the other. A three-way fold, I believe it's called. You know, like you're folding up a letter to stick inside of an envelope. Only the letter is rice, spam and nori, and the envelope is your mouth.

Well, I thought it was a good simile anyway.

Make sure that the nori is sticking to the rice (or itself) all the way around; no one likes loose ends. Flip the musubi seam-side down onto a plate for safe-keeping while you make the others.

Repeat, repeat, repeat. It is a little time consuming, I'll admit.

Once sealed up that last bit of nori... congratulations! You are the proud creator of a good handful of spam musubi! Take advantage of this well-earned moment of rest and scarf one down.

Delicious, am I right? And you doubted me!

Now, if you wrap these individually in plastic wrap, they will keep in the refrigerator for at least a few days. (I say "at least" because I've never let them last any longer than that myself.) Just heat them up in the microwave for about a minute, and they'll taste just dandy. Excellent on-the-go food, in my opinion.

Be fore-warned, though; microwaving your leftover musubi does tend to spread the smell of spam and nori about the house, which apparently some people are not very fond of (weirdos.) Heck, the original frying of the spam also spreads odors about, so if you have some vociferous spam-haters in the home, you might want to try making this somewhere else.

Well, I hope that I have convinced you to try something new and exciting, or at least to pass this recipe on to your friends so you can watch them try something new and exciting that you wouldn't personally touch with a ten foot pole.

Never let it be said that I did not attempt to expand your horizons.

This is Edo, signing off while wondering if maybe spam is just as difficult to swallow as the hair metal...


Klairi said...

Hi... I realize this can be kind of awkward and creepy, but... I randomly found your blog while searching for the cover art of Ai no Wakusei and I really like your way of blogging and the things you blog about. In that post you said maybe no one is reading your blog and you are driving yourself to obscurity and I would just like to say that you have one reader in me. Also, I was just going to start watching Galileo before reading your entry about it and thought the coincidence was rather amusing.

Edo said...

Thank you so much for the comment! I don't find it awkward or creepy at all; in fact, I'm rather flattered. I hope that my blog continues to keep you interested! :D

And hey, if I've convinced someone to watch Galileo, I consider my blog's aims reached. X3

Klairi said...

I'm really interested in Japanese culture... are you Japanese/in Japan right now? Sorry if you have mentioned it in your blog... I'm still going through the entries.

And I have to confess I'm a much bigger fan of Sakurai Atsushi than Buck-Tick. And I listen to Gackt even though I don't like most of his songs and find him a bit over-dramatic and pretentious sometimes. Also, I started watching Galileo because of Kitamura Kazuki, whom I am also a big fan of, but he almost always plays a minor supporting character in everything he is in.

Edo said...

Well then, it appears that you are my target audience! I'll be in Japan come mid-August, as a matter of fact. Things should get more interesting then...

Reading through old posts, huh? Well, boost my ego some more, why don't you. :D

Aw, really? I love Atsushi on his own, but only discovered him through being a fan of BUCK-TICK, and still really like their work better, in general. One of the best lives I've ever been to, let me tell you...

And ha, yes, Gackt is amusing; the trick is not to take him seriously. Even he's figured that one out, it seems...

Really? Are you enjoying Galileo so far? I honestly can't remember why I started watching it... just glad that I did. And sometimes, bit characters are the best!