Originally engineered for army troops during World War II, famously mocked in a Monty Python skit, and long cherished by Hawaiian expats (including POTUS), Spam (aka SPiced hAM) is hitting peak Portlandia. From Top Chef Season 11 guest judge Roy Choi’s Pot in L.A. to the Manhattan newcomer Noreetuh, trendy mainland restaurants are putting the decidedly non-artisanal canned meat on their menus. And while Spam Bushwick turned out to be an April Fool’s hoax, there are even a few chefs making homemade versions for realz. For the best spam to hit your inbox this week, no filter required, read on.
Spam Sushi Dog, Kimoto Rooftop Beer Garden, Brooklyn
The Spam sushi dog at Kimoto, Brooklyn’s hip new late-night Asian rooftop beer garden, is chef Brian Tsao's “F.U. to the culinary industry." The chef, who cooked at Manhattan’s Mira Sushi & Izakaya and is a Beat Bobby Flay victor, upends the traditional Hawaiian snack known as Spam musubi by serving deep-fried slabs of Spam nestled in an unrolled sushi roll “bun” and garnished with smoked pineapple relish, unagi sauce and chopped scallions. To make the dish, Tsao uses the real-deal Spam, which he buys directly at his local Chinese market. Photo: Michael Tulipan
Spam Fried Rice with Uni and Mushrooms, Liholiho Yacht Club, San Francisco
No one deserves more credit for the modern Spam renaissance than Hawaiian-born chef-owner Ravi Kapur of Liholiho Yacht Club. Kapur grew up eating Spam, and thinks it’s “kind of perfect,” except for its questionable provenance and sky-high salt content. He makes his own, grinding a mixture of high-quality pork shoulder, ham and seasonings, and then steaming it in a rectangular pan to make it look realistic. The three-day process is way more labor-intensive process than opening a can, but far more suitable for a place shortlisted as one of the best new restaurants in America by Bon Appetit. He ups the ante in his Spam fried rice by adding uni, bay shrimp and abalone mushrooms. A more down-home, off-menu Spam dish served over rice with spicy mayo, furikake and pickled cucumbers is also available by request.
Foie Gras and Spam Loco Moco, Animal, Los Angeles
Since their menu is full of veal brains, crispy pig heads and fried rabbit legs, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that star chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo are willing to add a little mystery meat. In the seven years since the duo first put their rendition of a loco moco, a traditional Hawaiian snack-shop staple, on their menu at Animal, it’s only gotten more popular. In this towering dish, fried Spam is topped with a Niman Ranch beef patty, a slice of seared foie gras, and a poached quail egg set in a pool of teriyaki-Sriracha “gravy.” Loco indeed. Photo: Brianne Chan
Boot Knocker, Pot, Los Angeles
Roy Choi’s culinary empire now spans far beyond his Kogi food truck, but the L.A. Son is still a maestro of championing unfancy foods. The Boot Knocker, a riff on budae jiggae (aka “Army based stew”) at his hip K-Town eatery Pot, is a fiery Korean-style hot pot brimming with modern-day rations such as instant ramen, rice cakes and canned meats (including Spam), along with tofu and fish cakes in a spicy pork and seafood broth. Photo: @RidingShotGunLA/Instagram
Spam Sliders at Marination Ma Kai and Marination Station, Seattle
Marination co-founder Kamala Saxton insists any island-themed restaurant worth its poi has to serve Spam, although she admits when she first opened, her customers were a bit “Spamprehensive.” These days, her signature Spam sliders, thick slices of Hormel’s finest, topped with teriyaki glaze and pickled ginger slaw on a sweet Hawaiian roll, draws lines forty deep. Find them at all of her locations, including Marination Mobile (named best food truck by Good Morning America in 2009), and her brick-and-mortar spinoffs Marination Station and Marination Ma Kai, a seaside restaurant overlooking the Seattle skyline.
Spam Agnolotti with Burgundy Truffles, Noreetuh, New York City
What do you get when you mix a chef trained at Manhattan's famous Per Se with an elevated Hawaiian-inspired menu at a tony East Village restaurant? Why Spam angolotti, of course. At Noreetuh, chef Chung Chow serves the island staple in a filled pasta bound in a rich cream and accented with shaved truffles for a quirky yet luxurious dish.
Kimchi Spam Fried Rice, The Peached Tortilla, Austin
At The Peached Tortilla, the brick-and-mortar outpost of a wildly popular Austin food truck hawking Southern comfort food with an Asian fusion twist (think bahn mi tacos), Sunday brunchers sip on Micheladas and eat kimchi Spam fried rice spiked with pureed kimchi, green onions, shiitake mushrooms, fried egg and furikake. Founder Eric Silverstein confesses, “Spam is still iffy territory for a lot of people,” but “some people really love it.”
The OMG and Redonkadonk, Brunch Box, Portland
Brunch Box, a popular spot in Portland, Oregon, is famous for its gut-busting burgers and Texas Toast grilled cheese sandwiches, but only its Spam-topped cheeseburger, loaded with bacon, grilled onions and a fried egg, earns the name OMG. Why stop there? The Redonkadonk, an OMG encased in grilled cheese sandwiches, has the dubious distinction of being pronounced one the fattiest foods in the U.S. by Health.com. Photo: The Hamblogger
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