Sunday, January 1, 2017

Nigiri Style Cajun Spice Spam Musubi

     Hawaiian Spam Musubi!
     Canned Spam happens to be highly respected in Hawaii.  Hawaii hosts some big time Spam festivals.  At the Waikiki Spam Jam, the Spam recipe contest is one of the highlights of the festival.  Many great Spam recipes have spawned from this event.
     Tons of Spam were unloaded in Hawaii during WWII.  Spam was often the only choice of meat during the peak of the war years, because fishing boats could not risk going out to sea.  The Japanese Hawaiian population also relied on Spam.  Spam Musubi actually was a Japanese Hawaiian creation.  
     Spam Musubi eventually caught on with the local Hawaiians and it became a tradition.  Now nearly every Hawaiian style casual restaurant offers Spam Musubi.  Spam Musubi also spread to Las Vegas, which is known as the "Ninth Hawaiian Island."  Spam Musubi is now a standard offering in restaurants around the Las Vegas valley, because the locals have taken a liking to this easy to recognize food item.
     One small can of Spam was enough to make 3 or 4 Spam Musubi.  Spam Musubi can be prepared Nigiri sushi style or it can be made the same way as a sushi roll.  Either way, Roasted Nori Seaweed holds the Spam in place.  Most casual restaurants serve Spam Musubi plain on a plate, with soy sauce on the side.  Fancier restaurants add a little more pizazz to the Spam Musubi presentation.          
     Cajun Blackening Spice is popular in modern sushi bars.  Hawaiians also like the spicy Cajun flavor.  The only problem is that Cajun Blackening Spice does not stick to Spam if it is dredged in the spice mix.  The spices have to be rubbed onto the surface of the Spam.
     Since Spam is a precooked canned product, there is no sense in blackening the Spam till it is dark brown or black when making Musubi.  The Spam is better of being lightly seasoned with the Cajun Blackening Spice mix and only blackened till a few brown highlights appear.  
     I purchased a bag of nice quality Nigiri Sushi Rice a few weeks ago with the intention of creating modern sushi rolls.  Rice for sushi tends to be a fatter grain and it looks more translucent than regular long grain white rice.    
     The definition of sushi is "soured rice."  The original sushi was cooked rice that fermented in warm humid conditions.  Later in history, combinations of rice vinegar and sugar were added to steamed rice to duplicate the original sour flavor.  The amount of sweetened rice vinegar added to rice for sushi should only create a delicate sour flavor.   

     Sushi Rice: 
     Yield:  1 cup of dried short grain sushi rice will yield about 3 cups of cooked rice.  (It is best to cook at least 1 cup, so the rice can be properly cooled.)     
     Short grain rice for sushi is a top grade rice that costs a bit more than regular long grain white rice.  When steamed, the grains of sushi grade short grain rice have a translucent quality.  Short grain sushi rice becomes sticky enough to hold its shape when pressure is applied.  
     It is best to buy a bottle of sweet vinegar for sushi making, if you are making sushi for the first time.  Becoming familiar with the sweet and sour balance will help when making your own sweet sushi vinegar with sugar syrup and rice vinegar. 
     *If you have a rice steamer, then follow the directions for the proportion of water needed for short grain rice.  Steamed rice usually requires a little less water than what is needed for the boiling technique.        
     Step 1:  Place 2 1/8 cups of water in a sauce pot.  
     Bring the water to a boil over medium high heat.
     Step 2:  Add 1 cup of sushi style short grain rice.  
     Return the liquid to a boil
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.  
     Cover the pot with a lid.
     Gently simmer and steam till the short grain rice is tender.  
     *Do not remove the lid or the steam will escape!  The cooking time is about 22 minutes. 
     Step 4:  Place the rice in a thick cedar bowl (or any thick wooden bowl).  
     Immediately start stirring the rice from the bottom up, so it cools evenly at a controlled rate.  
     While the rice is hot, sprinkle just enough sweet sushi rice vinegar on the rice to give the rice a delicate sour flavor.  
     Continue tossing and stirring the rice, till it stops steaming.  
     Step 5:  Let the rice sit undisturbed and allow the rice to gradually finish cooling off with the heat that the thick wooden bowl captured.  (The gradual cooling will cause the rice to have just the right amount of stickiness.)
     Keep the rice at a room temperature (72ºF) and keep the rice covered, so it does not dry out.

     Teriyaki Sauce with Black & White Sesame:
     This recipe yields about 1/4 cup.
     Adding a high proportion of black and white sesame seeds to Japanese teriyaki sauce creates an interesting looking garnishing sauce!  
     Step 1:  Place 1/4 cup of water in a small sauce pot.
     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.
     Step 2:  Place the pot over medium low heat. 
     Gently simmer and reduce till the sauce is a thin syrup consistency.  (This only takes a few minutes.)
     Step 3:  Place the sauce in a ceramic cup.
     Keep the sauce warm on a stove top.

     Basic Cajun Blackening Spice Mix:
     This recipe yields a little less than 1/4 cup.  (Enough for several Musubi.)
     Place 1 tablespoon of cayenne pepper in a mixing bowl.
     Add 2 tablespoons of Spanish Paprika.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of onion powder.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of white pepper.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt.
     Stir the spice mixture together and set it aside.

     Cajun Spice Spam:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.  (Enough for 3 Nigiri Style Musubi.)  
     A full slice of Spam will yield rather large Nigiri style sushi, like the ones in the photos above.  If smaller sushi pieces are preferred, then cut the sliced Spam in half lengthwise.   
     Step 1:  Cut 3 slices of Spam that are about 3/16" thick.
     Lightly dust the slices of spam, with the Cajun spice mix.  
     Try to rub some of the spice onto the surface of the Spam.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Place the 3 Cajun Spice Spam slices in the pan.
     Sauté the Spam on both sides, till a few brown highlights appear.
     Step 3:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Place the Cajun Spice Spam on a small platter. 
     Keep it warm on a stove top.

     Roasted Nori Seaweed Ribbons:
     Use kitchen shears to cut 3 long strips of roasted nori seaweed that measure 1 1/2"x 7".
     Use a dampened towel to lightly moisten the nori strip, so it will bend and hold its shape.  
     *Do not add too much moisture, or the nori will easily tear!
     Triple fold the nori strips lengthwise, to create 3 ribbons that are about 1/2" wide.

     Nigiri Style Sushi Rice Shaping for Spam Musubi:
     Nigiri region sushi is one of the traditional Japanese sushi styles.  A small cake of sushi rice with a featured ingredient on top is Nigiri style.  A ribbon of roasted nori seaweed can wrap the finished sushi.
     • The goal is to shape 3 Nigiri sushi rice cakes that are the same shape as the Spam.  The sushi rice cakes should be almost 1/2" thick.
     • Traditionally, only the thumb and index fingers on both hands are used to shape Nigiri sushi rice.  The rice should be quickly squeezed with 4 motions of the thumb and fingers to create a perfect Nigiri style rice cake.  Because a full slice of Spam is larger than a bite size piece of fish, squeezing the rice more than 4 times may be necessary, unless you have large hands.  The rice should be fairly densely packed and it should not be loose enough to crumble.  
     • The rice cake platform should be about the same size as the item that is placed on the sushi, so make the pressed rice platform the same shape as a slice of Spam.  For a quick and easy method, simply press a portion of sushi rice inside an empty can of Spam, then pop the rectangle shaped rice cake out.       

     Nigiri Style Cajun Spice Spam Musubi:
     This recipe yields 1 large appetizer portion that can be shared.  (3 Nigiri Musubi.)  
     Step 1:  Place 1 nori ribbon on a countertop.
     Place 1 Cajun Spice Spam across the middle of the nori ribbon.
     Place the sushi rice cake on the Spam.
     Step 2:  Wrap the ribbon around the sushi and Spam, so the ribbon ends overlap.
     Trim off any excess nori ribbon. 
     Dampen the ribbon with water, where it overlaps, so it sticks together. 
     *Make all 3 Musubi the same way.

     Step 1:  Arrange the 3 Nigiri Musubi on a plate, so they look nice.  (A symmetric pattern looks good from all angles.)
     Step 2:  Spoon a little bit of the Teriyaki Sauce with Black & White Sesame over the Musubi and pour a generous amount on the plate.
     Drizzle 1/2 teaspoon of blended sesame oil on the plate.
     Sprinkle some diced roasted chile poblano on the plate.
     Step 3:  Place a small mound of thin roasted red bell pepper strips on the center of the plate where the 3 Musubi meet.
     Garnish the roasted red peppers with curly leaf parsley sprigs.
     Sprinkle some thin bias sliced green onion slivers over the Musubi.
     Serve with wasabe, soy sauce and pickle ginger on the side.

     Cajun Spice Nigiri Musubi!  

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