Sunday, January 17, 2016

Spam Musubi Roll

     Spam Musubi!
     Sushi does not refer to raw fish or any kind of protein.  Sushi is sour rice.  Before the age of refrigeration, cooked rice occasionally was left to sour in a container or in a banana leaf.  In tropical heat and humidity, rice quickly sours with minimal risk of contamination from dangerous pathogens.  Naturally soured rice often accompanied steamed or fresh seafood.   
     Sushi Rice has its origins in Southeast Asia and many say that sushi was created in Southern China.   Eventually, soured rice was introduced to Japan, where it was given the name sushi.  As sushi became highly regarded, new levels of sushi perfection were established.  Eventually only the finest fat grain white rice was considered to be the best rice for sushi.  When and where sweet vinegar started to be used to imitate the flavor of naturally soured rice is not clear, but many food historians say that this practice started in Korea or Japan.  The goal when making modern sushi rice is to mimic the flavor of naturally soured rice and nothing else.  

     Spam Musubi was created in Hawaii by Japanese home cooks during WWII when seafood was in short supply.  There were literally mountains of canned Spam that were stockpiled in Hawaii during the war years and Spam turned into a local favorite.  Spam was highly regarded by Hawaiians, so Spam Musubi eventually became one of Hawaii's number one food specialties.  

     Sushi Rice: 
     Short grain rice for sushi is usually a top grade rice.  When steamed, the grains of sushi grade rice are translucent.  Short grain sushi grade rice also is sticky enough to hold its shape when pressed.
     When a bag of short grain rice is labeled as "Sushi Rice," the rice grains are pre-polished.  Polishing the rice is usually done by stirring the dried rice under cold running water till each grain of rice is polished smooth.  This process can take up to an hour, so machine polished Sushi Rice products are a nice convenience.  If the dried rice grains in a bag of Sushi Rice look polished smooth, then the rice is ready to use.      
     It is best to buy a bottle of sweet vinegar for sushi making, if you are making sushi for the first time.  Using a sushi vinegar product will help a cook to become familiar with the sweet and sour flavor balance. 

     *Preparing 1 cup of short grain sushi rice is more than enough for today's recipe.

     Steamer Method:  
     If you have a rice steamer, then follow the directions for the proportion of water needed for 1 cup of short grain rice.  

     Pot Method:  
     If you have no steamer, then use a proportion of 2.1 parts water to 1 part rice.  
     Bring 2 1/4 cups water to a boil in a sauce pot.
     Add 1 cup of sushi grade short grain rice.  
     Return the liquid to a boil.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.  
     Cover the pot with a lid.  
     It may take 22 minutes for short grain rice to become tender, instead of the usual 20 minute rice cooking time.
     Cooling Sushi Rice:
     The technique of controlling the rate that sushi rice cools is the key to making great sushi rice.  A thick wooden bowl is used to cool the rice.  The wood becomes warm and it holds a constant proper temperature, while the rice is tossed with sweet vinegar.  The wood also absorbs some of the excess moisture that would normally evaporate, so it helps to keep the rice moist. 
     Step 1:  As soon as the rice is cooked tender yet not too soft, place the rice in a thick cedar sushi rice bowl (or any thick wooden bowl).  
     Immediately start stirring the rice from the bottom up, so it cools evenly at a controlled rate.  
     Step 2:  While the rice is hot, sprinkle just enough sweet sushi rice vinegar on the rice to give it a delicate sour flavor.  (About 1 tablespoon per 2 cups of cooked rice.)
     Continue tossing and stirring the rice till it stops steaming.  
     Step 3:  Let the rice sit and become sticky, by allowing the rice to gradually cool undisturbed in the wooden bowl.  
     Step 4:  Keep the sushi rice at a room temperature for up to 4 hours.  Keep the sushi rice covered, so it does not dry out.

     Teriyaki Sauce with Black & White Sesame:
     Heat 1/4 cup of water over low heat.
     Add 3 tablespoons of sugar.
     Add 3 tablespoons of thin soy sauce.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon black sesame seeds. 
     Simmer and reduce the sauce, till it becomes a thin syrup consistency.  (This only takes a few minutes.)
     Keep the sauce warm on a stove top.

     Spam Musubi Roll:
     This recipe yields 1 Spam Musubi Roll.
     Covering a bamboo sushi mat with plastic wrap is a good idea.  This creates a non stick surface and it protects the mat.
     Step 1:  Cut 2 long rectangular strips of Spam that measure 3/8"x3/8"x4".
     Place the Spam on a roasting pan.
     Warm the Spam strips in a 300ยบ oven till they become hot, but not browned.
     Keep the Spam strips warm on a stove top.
     Step 2:  Place 1 sheet of roasted nori seaweed on a sushi rolling mat.
     Spread 3/8" thick layer of sushi rice on the near end of the nori sheet on the sushi rolling mat.  The rice layer should be about 3" wide.  (Be sure to spread the rice evenly and leave a portion of the nori sheet bare on the two opposing edges, so the bare nori sheet can seal the sushi roll.
     Step 3:  Place the 2 warm Spam strips about 1/3 of the way up on the sushi rice, so they are end to end and stretch across the width of the mat.  
     Allow the moisture from the rice to dampen the nori sheet for a few seconds.
     Step 4:  Dampen the sealing flap of the nori sheet, by spreading a few drops of water on the bare roasted nori sheet.
     Step 5:  Use the mat to roll an even cylinder shape. 
     The Spam Musubi roll should look like an even long cylinder shape with the Spam in the center.
     To create a flat bottom on the Spam Musubi roll, srch the sushi roll mat over the roll and press to create a "D" shape. 
     Spam Musubi Roll Presentation:
     Step 1:  Place the Spam Musubi Roll on a cutting board.
     Cut the roll into slices that are about 3/8" to 1/2" thick.  (Wet and clean the knife blade before cutting each slice.)
     Step 2:  Arrange the Spam Musubi slices in a circle pattern on the center of a plate,. 
     Place a bed of roasted red bell pepper strips in the center of the circle.
     Place a carrot flower garnish on the roasted red pepper bed.  (Carrot flowers are fairly easy to make.  Refer to a basic garnishing knife skills book, if this garnish is unfamiliar.)
     Place something green or yellow in the center of the flower.  (A piece of broccoli looks nice.)
     Step 3:  Drizzle some of the Teriyaki Sauce with Black & White Sesame on the plate around the Spam Musubi.
     Drizzle a little bit of sesame oil on the plate.
     Step 4:  Sprinkle a few pinches of thin bias sliced green onion top over the sauces.
     Serve with wasabi, soy sauce and pickled ginger on the side.

     Viola!  A nice looking modern Hawaiian style Spam Musubi Roll presentation!        

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