From none other than Food and Wine:
Why are SPAM®’s products so popular in Hawaii?
“We know what you’re thinking; SPAM® products must grow on trees there. That would be neat, but to believe it you must have taken a coconut to the head. The true root of the island’s love for SPAM® products goes back to World War II, when the luncheon meat was served to GIs. By the end of the war, SPAM® products were adopted into local culture, with Fried SPAM® Classic and rice becoming a popular meal. The unique flavor quickly found its way into other Hawaiian cuisine, from SPAM® Fried Wontons to SPAM® Musubi, and SPAM® products became a fixture for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Today you’ll find SPAM® dishes served everywhere from convenience stores to restaurants, reflecting a demand that is unmatched by any place in the world.”
So, in Hawaii, during the pandemic hoarding, Hawaiians bought toilet paper and SPAM!
My favorite SPAM dishes are:
SPAM and eggs
Teriyaki SPAM over rice
Ramen with SPAM
More from Food and Wine:
We have in Hawaii this impulse to make other peoples’ food our own. You have to remember that, and the way that I approach Hawaii’s local food, and Hawaii’s food, and my own food, is that it’s not a static thing. It’s something that’s constantly innovative and interesting, and yes, we have the classics, yes, we have Kalua pig and Spam musubi. These have been classics for quite a long time now. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t tweak them a little bit, or add your own flair. Because what I find so exciting about Hawaii’s food is people encountering it for the first time are like, “OK, Hawaiian food is this. Hawaii’s local food is this, these few categories.” But if you even just go to my family’s potluck dinners, they’re constantly bringing new things.
I think what a lot of outsiders don’t realize about Hawaii is that we love bringing food from one place to another. Bearing food great distances, or even small distances, and sharing food is like such a part of Hawaii’s food culture. In Hawaii, a lot of our food culture is influenced by Japanese food culture, but also by Japanese culture in general. Omiyage is something that you bring home to people from your travels. You always have to show up with a gift, and you always have to think of others when you’re traveling and bring something back. Usually, it’s food. With this tradition of Omiyage, you are constantly bringing new food to people.
When you bring new food and new flavors to people, they’re going to want to incorporate it into what they already know and enjoy and eat. Hawaii’s food is constantly evolving, it’s constantly changing, and I feel like it’s this big, warm hug that keeps bringing in new flavors and influences. I want to reiterate: Hawaii’s food is not static.
Generally, I find my SPAM in two favorite locations, Las Vegas and Hawaii. I rarely make it at home, though we had a SPAM luncheon at work more than a decade ago. My favorite SPAM dish is the SPAM musubi, with is like sushi rice with a slice of SPAM, that may or may not be flavored with a teriyaki sauce.
When I was in college, my Mom bought a rice cooker for me, primarily for late night meals or snacks. When the rice was done, we would dump in some cubed SPAM, and some veggies. After about 20 minutes, we mixed it with a spatula, and served it in a paper bowl. That was living back in the late 60’s. The rich guys went out for a late night burger. We stayed in the frat house with our SPAM and rice!!!