Some of our favorite foods are syncretic—think chicken tikka masala, the Door County fish boil, tacos al pastor, or even banh mi pizza. By slamming together two or more cultures, you can come out with something equal to or greater than the sum of its parts. One of the most underrated gems of this genre is the humble Spam musubi, a fusion of old-school Japanese street food and the good ol’ American industrial food complex.
Spawned via the cauldron of fusion cooking that is Hawaii, Spam musubi has its origins in nigiri-style sushi rolls and canned ham brought to the islands by U.S. servicemen in the run-up to World War II.
The dish is simple enough: it’s a thick slice of Spam grilled in soy sauce and sugar plunked atop of a block of sushi rice, held together with a thick band of nori. The addition of a little furikake beneath the meat gives this dish a welcome salty, funky depth that plays beautifully with the sweet meatiness of the Spam and the relatively blank canvas of the dish’s white rice. United Noodles keeps their musubi in a hot case near the front of the store, and it’s $3 a piece—one is a light lunch, two is substantial, three is suitable if you’re a lumberjack or hockey player.
THE DISH: Spam Musubi, $3 each
THE PLACE: United Noodles, 2015 E. 24th St., Minneapolis
THE REASON: It’s cheap, it’s delicious, it’s an umami-bomb