Chef Mike pays homage to the ubiquitous processed meat
It took me almost twenty years to recover from my first encounter with Spam. Wandering innocently into a friend’s kitchen I witnessed a glistening, vaguely meat-like cube of Spam emerge from its canned womb and slide onto a plate with the sound of a boot pulling out of wet mud. My young mind could handle the idea of meat from a can, but the gelatinous vernix coating this newborn tinned terrine caused my appetite for Hormel’s signature canned comestible to seek refuge in the loving arms of less soul-scarring porcine products.
It wasn’t until two decades later that I began an affair with Spam that, like so many irresponsible relationships, has been marked by impulsive trysts and base cravings that inevitably lead to a guilt ridden breakfast over promises that this time will be the last time. But there never seems to be a last time. In spite of its reputation, when treated with the respect it deserves, Spam is so bad it’s good.
Despite the jokes and urban legends about the provenance of its ingredients, Spam is about 90 percent pork shoulder and 10 percent ham. Add some salt, sugar, spices, water and sodium nitrate to the mix and—voilà—you have Spam. The USDA does not allow nonmeat fillers or things like pig snouts, lips, or ears into lunchmeat (those all go to Fergus Henderson and April Bloomfield for $30-a-plate food porn) so rest assured your Spam is snout-free.
Eating Spam raw, straight from the can is a borderline human rights violation, but sliced thin and pan-fried, it transforms into something that is not only good, it’s downright delicious. In fact, fried Spam has been featured in dishes by some of the nation’s best chefs, such as Roi Choi, Vinny Dotolo, and Alan Wong. It is practically revered in Korea where it’s seen as a luxury item that’s given as a gift for the Lunar New Year. And Hawaii’s love affair with Spam dates back to the Second World War, giving birth to many of the canned meat’s most creative and quirky uses.
If you spend any time watching food television, you’re certainly familiar with Hawaiian-inspired Spam Musubi—a sushi-like roll of fried Spam nestled between rice and wrapped in nori. There are fried Spam and pineapple burgers, Spam and fois gras loco moco, and even the envelope pushing Spam agnolotti with mascarpone and lemon zest at NYC’s famed Noreetuh.
But none of the Spam-inspired, tweezer and squeeze bottle food porn coming out of LA or NYC’s food scene can compare to the simple fried Spam and egg breakfast sandwich I’m sharing with you below. This breakfast sandwich is so good, I hesitated to share it, but felt it was an important contribution to the Spam-challenged in Chattanooga, the South, and anywhere breakfast is eaten and Spam is sold.
Mike’s Breakfast Spamwich
(makes 4 spamwiches)
- 1 tsp Sriracha
- 2 tbsp mayo (I prefer Japanese Kewpie mayo)
- 4 tbsp butter
- 8 eggs
- salt, to taste
- 4 tbsp diced green onions
- 4 slices American cheese
- 1 can classic Spam
- 2 stalks of green onion, roughly chopped
- 8 slices of sandwich bread - crusts removed and lightly toasted
- Combine the Sriracha and mayo in a bowl and set aside.
- Melt one tablespoon of the butter in a pan over medium heat. Crack 2 eggs directly into the pan and stir lightly to mix the eggs - do not scramble. Cook the eggs until the bottom is set, about 2 minutes then add the diced green onion and season with salt. Fold eggs into a square that will fit on the toasted bread and top with one slice of cheese. Repeat with the remaining 3 pairs of eggs. Note: If you cover the finished egg/cheese patties with a plate or pan lid, the residual heat will melt the cheese.
- Slice the Spam in 1/8” - 1/4” slices and sear on medium-high heat until both sides are lightly browned and the edges are crispy.
- To build the sandwiches, spread some of the Sriracha mayo on two slices of bread. Stack the Spam and egg/cheese patties on the bread and top with sliced scallions. Finish the sandwich with another slice of toasted, Sriracha-mayo’d bread and try not to take a bite before you make it to the table.
Longtime food writer and professional chef Mike McJunkin is a native Chattanoogan currently living abroad who has trained chefs, owned and operated restaurants. Join him on Facebook at facebook.com/SushiAndBiscuits