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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Homemade SPAM Hits the Streets

You people are amazing, you know that?! Thank you for coming out to support my crazy endeavors. Thank you for appreciating the wonderful rice sandwich that is musubi. I had no idea you would profess such love for my homemade SPAM musubi. One woman said she could not believe that I am a practicing attorney by day and slinging Hawaiian food by night.

I think over 1700 people came to the night portion of the SF Underground Market this past Saturday. I'm sorry we didn't make eye contact or get to talk much. I had no idea I would be so busy that I a) did not even do a single lap around the place to check out the other vendors, b) did not get to go make silly faces at the photobooth at Sidesaddle Kitchen or eat one of her amazing raw lavender tortes, c) forgot to go to the bathroom as six hours quickly passed, and d) forgot to eat dinner (unless you count forkfuls of rice and a spoon dipped in gravy to test the temperatures).

Did you see the New York Times article on the Underground Market?! There's a photo of Neil diligently cooking his way through 120 (!) eggs made-to-order for loco moco.

I had made 86 (um, eighty-six?!!) musubi and they sold out faster than you can imagine. Sorry if you missed it! But don't fret, the homemade "SPAM" will make an appearance again in the near future. I was so excited about learning how to make it that you probably heard me shout "I made the SPAM myself!" even if you were just trying to order some hibiscus iced tea.

Many of you wanted to know how I made the spam, so I thought I would elaborate a little bit here. First, there was absolutely zero instruction online (and Hormel is quite secretive about what goes into their products). Enter Neil and his extensive experience making charcuterie. We talked about the flavors and textures we wanted to ultimately create and then crafted a way to acheive that (read: trial and error). Sometimes, you gotta go with your gut and see what happens (and cross your fingers that it will turn out the way you had hoped).

And, this is exactly how I hoped it would turn out.

First, I ground up a large quantity of pork, duck, and chicken (thigh meat) in a meat grinder. Then I stuck some pre-cooked ham into a food processor and blended it with the ground meat. I added smoked salt, sugar, a bit of curing salt and freshly minced garlic. Then, in small batches, I whizzed it all up in a food processor with some pork fat until it emulsified. Then I pressed the mixture into a baking pan, covered it with foil and put it in a water bath to cook in the oven at 300 degrees for about 3 hours until it reaches an internal temperature of 155 Fahrenheit. The water bath essentially poaches it and I rotated the pans every half hour to ensure even heating. The cooking process causes it to shrink down and the texture changes from a paste to a much more solid block. I let it cool for a few minutes and then I pressed it down with something heavy and let it chill and solidify overnight. This compacts the meat together and pushes out any air bubbles. In the morning, it was a solid brick that could be cut into slices and put into a frying pan to crisp up just like you would cook SPAM.


I can't even tell you how exciting it felt to see the process working. I was beside myself when I saw that it looked, smelled and tasted like real SPAM, but I had the satisfaction on knowing exactly what went into it (nothing scary!). I kept saying "It's working! It's WORKING!". Now Neil and I can work on perfecting and developing an actual recipe and serving it up to you!

Keep your eyes out for its reappearance! You gotta try it to believe it.

**I also made some amazing vegan tofu-takuan musubi. I sauteed some extra-firm tofu in a sweet soy glaze and then put it together with takuan (Japanese pickled daikon radish) and seaweed seasoning.

Using a musubi press, I layered it all in between some freshly steamed calrose rice and wrapped it with a sheet of nori seaweed.

I was really pleased with the texture and flavor of this musubi and glad to provide a vegan option (where else can you get vegan musubi?).

I was planning on bringing more musubi to the New Taste Marketplace on April 2, but some circumstances take me away to Minnesota for the weekend. However, I promise to do my best to convince Jason to carry the musubi torch and bring more musubi for you!

Friday, March 25, 2011

March 2011 SF Underground Market

There have been a few milestones going on around here. In March 2010, Elianna and I decided to take part in the local foodie community by making some pickled grapes to sell at the SF Underground Market. Since then, Elianna has branched out to become the Executive Director for New Taste Marketplace and I have continued to share some food from the islands with the local community. I have even got a couple of reviews!

Come visit me at the SF Underground Market tomorrow. You will be so excited you did. There will be lots of food vendors with local goodies to share, music (maybe even a violinist?) and a full bar to extend shenanigans until 2 am.

If you come by, I will be slinging the best "ono kine grindz" (read: most delicious food) you can find in the bay area. Just don't ask me to "talk pidgin". I have enlisted the generous help of my friend Neil of Mission Gastroclub to help me create some impressive dishes:

Homemade “SPAM” Musubi
Special blend of pork, duck and chicken! That's right. Neil and I have figured out how to make homemade spam so we know exactly what went it in and it is De-LISH! I am really excited about learning how to finally make this in a respectable manner that puts Hormel to shame.

Soy-Glazed Tofu-Takuan Musubi
VEGAN musubi with glazed tofu, pickled radish and seaweed seasoning.

Homemade Beef Patty, Fried Egg & Miso Gravy served on a bed of Nori-Scallion Rice

Hibiscus Tea
Sweet-sour hibiscus steeped with a hint of cinnamon and island love.

I'd love to see you. Come on, pretend you're an islander, even if only for a day.

Quinn Walker Makes an Entrance

Exactly one month ago, on February 25, 2011, our dear friends, Heather & Matt, brought a little boy named Quinn Jae-Hwa Walker into this world. And they haven’t slept a wink since.

Quinn is gorgeous. Especially when he flutters open his tiny little eyes and wrinkles up his lips into a perfect little “o” shape.


My brother, Mark, will testify that his memory of the first three months of his daughter's life is one blurry, sleepy haze. My other brother, Chad, and his wife are having a baby in April, and I'm betting that Chad is savouring his sleep now while Hiromi is stock piling food in her freezer. It’s amazing, I'm told, how fast time flies when every drop of attention and energy is spent on making sure a baby is warm, happy and comfortable. When do you sleep? Never. When do you eat? When you remember that you haven’t eaten anything in sixteen hours.

So, Elianna and I decided to cook up a feast fit for new parents. There was even a shared google document titled "Operation Feed the New Parents". We wanted to stock their fridge and freezer with the kind of comforting food that sleep-deprived friends can reheat in seconds when they don't even have the energy to order take-out.

Left to right, back to front:

Spicy Veggie Thai Yellow Curry with Steamed Jasmine Rice
Pre-Grilled Rack of Lamb (courtesy of Neil and Mission Gastroclub)
Harvest Grains (israeli couscous, orzo, chickpeas, red quinoa) with Spinach
Trader Joe's Root Vegetable chips
Chicken Chickpea Soup (with homemade stock)
Fresh sweet potato bread
Banana Walnut Muffins
Lemon Yogurt Cake with Poppyseeds

It's not the best photo, but you get the idea. We were in too much of a rush to play with lighting and our friends were hungry!

To be honest, it made me feel good to do this for them. Being a new parent is no easy feat and I wanted to offer whatever support I could (which, if you know me, "support" comes in the form of food).

Happy one-month old Birthday, Quinn. We are all so blessed for your arrival in this world.