If you’re skeptical about “the best” when it comes to Spam, try Spam musubi. The popular Hawaiian snack originated in the islands around WWII when canned meat was abundant, and Asian immigrants made the most of it—essentially turning porky slabs into onigiri (Japanese rice balls wrapped with seaweed).
Today the salty, savory combination is a quick-grab staple in Hawaiian convenience stores, and like with so many low-brow foods, chefs have toyed with elevating it (yes, even “house-made Spam” is a thing). A few places around DC serve Spam musubi, though the absolute best is aboard the Hawaiian food truck, Abunai.
Owner Akina Harada, a Honolulu native, moved to DC with plans of opening a Hawaiian restaurant; her poke bowl shop will debut downtown at 1920 L Street, Northwest this year. In the meantime she’s bringing Aloha State specialties to the streets. While the menu of kalua pork and loco moco changes, Spam musubi is a constant. Tinned meat isn’t known for its lovely texture—often a complaint when it comes to musubi—so Harada coats the slices in panko and fries them to-order. The result is ultra-crispy ham wrapped in rice and nori, topped off with a fresh ginger-scallion sauce and crunchy sesame seeds. Platters ($11) come with four slices pressed in a special musubi mold, plus pickled carrots and cucumbers, and creamy mac salad.
““I’ve seen people make their own Spam, but it’s not the same,” says Harada. “I want it to be Hawaiian.”
Follow the Abunai truck on Twitter for locations.