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Think you know Spam? Not like it's being cooked at the OC Fair




Peggy Linberg, winner of the 2016 Spam cooking contest at the OC Fair, holding a platter of bruschetta that comes with blended Spam, cream cheese and gorgonzola; shredded and fried Spam; aged balsamic vinaigrette and basil.
Peggy Linberg, winner of the 2016 Spam cooking contest at the OC Fair, holding a platter of bruschetta that comes with blended Spam, cream cheese and gorgonzola; shredded and fried Spam; aged balsamic vinaigrette and basil.
Leo Duran/KPCC

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The OC Fair is known for culinary adventure. Think deep-fried butter, cinnamon roll sundaes, Krispy Kreme hamburgers and, new this year, a Unicorn Leg.

By comparison, Spam almost seems ho-hum.

But leave it to the OC Fair to mix things up.

This Saturday is the Spam cooking contest, and chefs near and far are challenged to come up with interesting new ways to prepare the infamous canned meat. 

Peggy Linberg won last year's contest with her coconut curry recipe, Sir Can-A-Lot.

"I'm kind of known as the Spam queen in my neighborhood," she says.

 Linberg knows all about its reputation among some people, though.

"It makes that weird noise when you pull it out of the can. You know, pluoup!" she jokes. And its color and texture aren't all that appealing at first glance, either.

Cook it right, however, and it can be amazing.

"In many of my contests I will shred it and fry it up, because then it looks like bacon. There's just so many different ways that you can use it," says Linberg. "It just got a bad rap!"

Some great L.A. chefs are fond of serving Spam, too.

Sugarbloom Bakery's Sharon Wang bakes up a delicious kimchi Spam musubi croissant, and Roy Choi has a kimchi Spam rice bowl on the menu at Chego.

"It shows the versatility of Spam," she says. "You can slice it and put it in a macaroni salad, or you can take it high-end and let Roy Choi do his thing."

A Spam coconut curry dish, called Sir Can-A-Lot, created by Peggy Linberg, winner of the 2016 Spam cooking contest at the OC Fair.
A Spam coconut curry dish, called Sir Can-A-Lot, created by Peggy Linberg, winner of the 2016 Spam cooking contest at the OC Fair.
A Martinez/KPCC

Sir Can-A-Lot Coconut Curry, By Peggy Linberg

  1. Remove the Spam from the can and divide 2/3 and 1/3. Slice the 2/3 portion into strips and then cut in half. Put 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in a nonstick pan and lightly brown the Spam. Remove and put on a paper towel. Shred the other 1/3 on the coarse side of a grater and put in the same pan. Fry on medium heat till the pieces are crispy. Put them on a paper towel.
  2. Add the other 1 tablespoon coconut oil to the same pan and add the diced onion. Saute over medium heat till soft. While it is cooking, seed and destem the 3 peppers and dice. Add them to the onions. Add the curry paste, garlic, and ginger. Cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add the brown sugar, zest and juice from the lime, and 1-1/2 cans of coconut milk and the fish sauce. Add the sliced Spam and heat.
  3. Cook rice as usual except add the 1/2 can of coconut milk to the liquids.
  4. To serve, put the rice in a small mold and place in the center of a bowl. Ladle the hot curry around it and sprinkle on the shredded Spam and garnish with cilantro.