It’s Throwback Thursday, so get ready for story time.
My first meeting with my now-fiancé’s family happened in California while sharing traditional Hawaiian food. The star of the show was poke — a raw fish salad that I’ve loved from the first bite — but playing an important supporting role as an appetizer was Spam musubi.
Spam musubi is a simple, but tasty snack that combines the eponymous luncheon meat, with rice, and nori (seaweed) in a style reminiscent of Japanese onigiri (rice balls). Easy to make, inexpensive, and super-portable, they’re all over the place in Hawaii, from convenience stores to restaurant menus.
Nearly a year later as we packed for a trip to Hawaii, we knew that Spam musubi would be a great way to get us into the spirit of the islands and keep us satisfied for the 13-hour journey.
The difference was that to keep our version vegan, we replaced the Spam with slices of well-dried tofu, marinated in a mix of soy sauce, onion powder, ginger, and sesame oil.
- 14-oz. extra firm tofu, dried and sliced into thin rectangles
- 2 cups short-grain white rice (sushi or Calrose work fine), cooked, then cooled to room temperature
- 1 tbsp mirin (rice cooking wine)
- 1 tsp sugar
- 8 sheets of nori
- 3 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp onion powder
- ¼ tsp ground ginger
Step 1: Dry
Slice and dry the tofu like you’ve never dried tofu before.
Step 2: Marinate
Mix the marinade ingredients together, and add tofu to mixture. Let it sit, covered, in the refrigerator overnight.
Step 3: Bake
Bake the tofu for 30 minutes at 400 degrees.
Step 4: Mix
While the tofu is baking, mix the mirin and sugar into the cooked rice.
Step 5: Dry
Once the tofu is done, soak up the excess oil with a paper towel.
Step 6: Assemble
Add a few spoonfuls of rice to a sheet of nori paper, and flatten it into a thin layer covering the sheet. Sprinkle sesame seeds evenly over the rice then place two slices of tofu in a line atop it all. Dress the tofu with a bit more soy sauce if you like.
Step 7: Roll
Roll the nori. If you have trouble getting the nori to adhere to itself, use water on your fingers as though sealing an envelope.
Step 8: Slice
Slice down the middle so that you end up with two easy-to-carry hand rolls.
Step 9: Wrap
Wrap each one individually in cling wrap.