• One of Hawaii's favourite snacks, Spam musubi (Food Network / Junk Food Flip)
Yes, you can DIY this world-conquering pork-in-a-can. Here's how.
Kylie Walker

16 May 2018 - 3:50 PM  UPDATED 23 May 2018 - 11:06 AM

There are, believe it or not, 16 kinds of Spam – 15 produced official varieties**, including Hot and Spicy, Cheese and Teriyaki – and one that’s far from official. We’re talking homemade Spam. Yep, that’s a thing.

When the first can of Spam rolled off the production line in 1937, we bet the makers of this long-lasting preserved pork product had no idea what a world-conquerer it would be. The official Spam website proclaims that 12.8 cans of Spam are eaten every second. It’s sold in 44 countries around the world. It even has its own museum.

Now let’s be honest, Spam is not the lightest serve of meat on the planet. And when you take one of Hawaii’s favourite snacks, Spam musubi – grilled Spam stacked on a block of rice and wrapped in nori – and deep-fry it, creating a breadcrumbed, mayo-topped block of crunchy indulgence, the calorie count goes through the roof. Close to what some folk would eat in a single day, in fact.

So when Food Network’s Nikki Dinki decided to make a lighter version of a 1400-calorie deep-fried Spam musubi, one of her tweaks was a made-from-scratch version of Spam, with a mix of pork and chicken meat, and no preservatives. Dinki bakes her spiced meat mix, then grills the pieces, brushing with a hoisin, soy sauce and ginger glaze to add extra flavor.

How did it stack up against the real thing? Her Junk Food Flip co-star Bobby Deen summed it up:

Dinki isn’t the only one to go the DIY Spam route.

Blogger Kimchimom’s panfried slices look deliciously crisp:

And this restaurant version gets a lot of Instagram love from diners:

Nikki Dinki invents her lighten-ed up version of deep-fried Spam musubi  when she and Deen take on this tasty but calorie-heavy treat in the second season of Junk Food Flip (catch it on Food Network, 8pm Monday 21 May). Her musubi – pan-fried, rather than deep-fried – has two other “lighter version” elements that we’d be happy to steal to use in other dishes: a cauliflower and pineapple rice and a sweet and spicy pineapple mayo. (Get Nikki's homemade Spam and musubi recipes here.)

Dinki and Deen also combine their junk food makeover talents to create another musubi, the Wham Bam thank you Spam musubi (get the recipe here), which weighs in at 410 calories, and about 75 per cent less fat, as they take on a popular 1400-calorie deep-fried original in a final taste test. 

One of Hawaii's favourite snacks, Spam musubi

Want to see if Nikki’s homemade spam wins out over the real thing in Deen's version? And can the pair beat the original? Watch Junk Food Flip on Food Network, 8pm Monday 21 May then on SBS On Demand.

** One of those 15 official varieties is made with turkey. Turkey Spam. Good news for those who can’t eat pork products, but is it really Spam? Hormel, the makers of Spam have this to say: “Some folks wonder why we didn’t call it SPURKEY.” Yes, Hormel, we were. “But if we had, it wouldn’t be a proper member of the SPAM family of products.” Dang. There goes our plans for a recipe for Spurkey jerky.

more spam stars
Army base stew (budae jjigae)

They say necessity is the mother of invention and this stew is a sterling example of that sentiment. Budae jjigae (army base stew) was created in Uijeongbu, an hour north of Seoul, soon after the Korean War when food scarcity led starving Koreans to concoct a meal using food that was discarded or handed out at US military bases. The Koreans added the unfamiliar ingredients, like Spam, hot dogs and baked beans, into a traditional spicy soup flavoured with gochujang, Korean red pepper paste, and topped it with a square of melted American cheese.

Korean army stew (budae jjigae)

The dish gets its name, army stew, from harder times, and true to its namesake, it’s loaded up with all things plain but wonderful — instant ramen, salty Spam, chewy rice cakes and silky soft tofu.

Bitter gourd, egg and spam stir-fry (goya champuru)

This simple stir-fry has its roots in over 1000 years of trade history between Okinawa and South-East Asia, Japan, China and, more recently, America. It is the iconic dish of Okinawa and tells the island’s whole story on just one plate. Although you can substitute pork belly for the Spam if you have an aversion, just know that I asked one 90-year-old Okinawan lady what people had used on the island for their goya champuru before Spam. Her response: "I don’t even remember."