Imagine that you entered your recipe into a local blue-ribbon contest and won. Then imagine your recipe wins the grand-prize national award out of 800 entries! Well, for Caroline Burgess of New Mexico this scenario became reality. Her SPAM® Thai-Style Meatballs is the grand-prize winning recipe in this year’s Great American SPAM® Championship. Way to go Caroline!
Caroline’s meatballs combine SPAM® Less Sodium, coconut-curry rice, and fresh cilantro rolled into a rice ball then breaded in shredded coconut and panko breadcrumbs. Once they are deep-fried, the finished meatballs have a nice crunchy exterior and a delicious filled interior. Accompanied by an Asian sweet chili sauce, her recipe is very creative and different from anything I have ever tasted.
Why am I so interested in SPAM? Well, the answer is quite simple. Growing up, our family ate SPAM. It is the key ingredient in making Spam-musabi, a popular sushi style snack food in Hawaii and among Asian Americans. The most common type of Spam-musabi is made by forming a block of rice and placing a piece of grilled Spam on top then wrapped with dried seaweed (nori). Many Sundays I will eat Spam-musabi at church as it is a very common lunch snack among our Asian-American fellowship.
About 5 weeks ago my husband and I went on a quick trip to Waikiki for his work and to celebrate our 13th Anniversary. While he was in meetings, I took it upon myself to go on a self-guided food crawl. Using Yelp and asking locals for recommendations, I walked around for hours looking for tasty bites and memorable dishes. I made several stops searching for the best Spam-musabi, just for the fun of it. My favorite one was the breakfast musabi with a slice of Spam, bacon, and egg sitting on top of sesame seed studded rice ball and nori wrapped around it. I loved it.
Did you know Waikiki is also known for SPAM JAM? Our grand prize winner Caroline will be attending SPAM JAM on April 27th in Waikiki on an all-expense paid trip. What is SPAM JAM? Tens of thousands of people attend this popular annual festival for its great food and entertainment. Hawaii is the perfect setting for a SPAM festival because Hawaiians take their SPAM very seriously. So seriously that more SPAM is consumed per person in Hawaii than in any other state in the US. Nearly 7 million cans of SPAM are eaten in Hawaii every year!
When my family and I stayed in Honolulu three years ago, we just happened to be in Waikiki during this event. It is a great family-friendly event along Kalakaua Avenue which is closed off during the festival. Street venders set up tents selling SPAM themed items as well as other crafts as local musicians play music. Local restaurants serve signature dishes and the proceeds benefit a local charity. If you are attending the event, you will have an opportunity to try Caroline’s award-winning SPAM® Thai-Style Meatballs.
This year I will be attending the SPAM JAM (as a guest of SPAM) in Waikiki April 27th eating all the tastiest bites I can find and sharing them with you via Twitter #SPAMJAM, Instagram, Facebook, and of course on SSL blogging about the festival. I will also be going from food booth to food booth taking pictures with my iPhone. If you see me, don’t be shy… say hi! And if you live in Washington, I’ll be judging the Washington SPAM Blue-Ribbon contest at this year’s Puyallup fair. I’m not kidding when I say I have a special place for SPAM in my heart.
If you’re looking for SPAM recipe inspiration for next year’s contest or for your personal enjoyment, you’ll find many recipes (including Spam-musabi) here.
Just for fun, here’s my take on Caroline’s Thai Meatball recipe. Enjoy!
- 4 quarter-inch slices fresh pineapple, cut into 24 one-inch pieces
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 12 butter lettuce leaves, washed and dry
- 4 full sheets roasted nori cut into 4 equal envelope sized pieces
- ½ cup sprouts
- ½ cup carrots, julienne
- ½ red jalapeno pepper, thinly sliced
- ½ cup cilantro stems with leaves
- 18 SPAM Thai Inspired Meatballs -> recipe here.
- ¼ cup sweet chili sauce
- Lightly sprinkle the brown sugar on both sides with brown sugar. Grill the pineapple for one minute on each side on high heat using a stove-top grill pan. Set aside.
- To make the lettuce wrap, overlap two pieces of the butter lettuce to form a circle.
- Lay a piece of nori down the center.
- Layer the sprouts, pineapple, carrots, jalapeno, and cilantro down the center of the nori.
- Top each wrap with 3 meatballs, Top each meatball with a little sweet chili sauce.
- Serve the wrap open faced.