How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Five ethnic food tastes worth acquiring: The meat edition

Photo by Manogamo/Flickr (Creative Commons)


Last week, Multi-American delved once more into that culinary landscape where some diners fear to tread, the territory of the unsung ethnic delicacy.

These are the dishes that don't necessarily sound good, look good or or even smell good, but are worth trying because they are unexpectedly delicious.

Our first series in March covered a range of foods, from drinks like the Vietnamese avocado milkshake to main dishes like arroz con calamares en su tinta, a particularly unattractive squid dish served in several Latin American countries.

The series last week focused on meat dishes, cooked, raw and canned. True to form, none sound like anything one would rush out to try, but don't be put off. For any carnivores who might have missed these treats, here they are in a convenient list. Dig in.

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Spam rocks? Much, much love for Spam musubi

Photo by klyphord/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Spam musubi to go, October 2006. Photo by klyphord/Flickr (Creative Commons)

One of a series of posts last week that explored unsung ethnic delicacies highlighted Spam musubi, a popular snack made with Spam and sushi rice that is popular in Hawaii.

The series focused on those dishes or items that may not look or sound good, but are in fact delicious. I knew that Spam musubi was well-loved on the islands, and at least by one person in Washington, D.C., that being our Hawaii-raised president. But judging by the flood of comments that came in to KPCC's Facebook page, there is a great deal of Spam musubi love out there.

"This is one of my favorite foods!" Joanne Kakuda wrote.

"Hot dogs are worse than spam so I don't understand the prejudice against it," Tracy Munar-Ramos wrote. "Spam rocks!"

Okay, not entirely sure about that. Vanessa Lee put it in perspective:

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More ethnic food tastes worth acquiring: Spam musubi

Photo by bandita/Flickr (Creative Commons)


Hawaiian cuisine is perhaps the original Asian fusion cuisine, a mix of tastes that has evolved over centuries of immigration to the islands.

Those who know it and love it appreciate its filling, comforting simplicity. But the use in some dishes of Spam, that salty canned mush of chopped pork shoulder, ham, and filler introduced to the islands by the U.S. military, has a sad tendency to land those dishes in culinary joke territory. Which is a darn shame, because Hawaiian cooking has a way of making it rather tasty.

The best example of this is the popular snack known as Spam musubi, which looks like a giant piece of sushi. In a typical preparation, the sliced Spam is grilled and simmered in a mix of soy sauce, sugar, and rice wine. It is then placed atop a giant piece of Spam-sized molded sushi rice (there is actually a gadget called a Spam musubi rice press) and, in the simplest version, the entire thing is wrapped with a piece of nori, the dried seaweed wrapper common to sushi.

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