In New York’s trendsetting cooking scene, SPAM® is stepping into the spotlight. At Noreetuh, an acclaimed modern Hawaiian restaurant in Manhattan’s East Village, SPAM® is served alongside braised pork and tuna poke entrees. The restaurant opened in January 2015, and it soon garnered a Critic’s Pick accolade from New York Magazine and a recommendation from the Michelin Guide.
Chef Chung Chow, who grew up in Oahu, picked up haute cuisine cred working in the kitchens at Per Se and Lincoln Ristorante. But for his first venture, opened with Per Se alums and partners Gerald San Jose and Jin Ahn, Chow reimagined the comfort food flavors of his island youth.
And so SPAM®, the 75-year-old meat in a can, got a culinary makeover.
“We wanted to find a filling that represented who we are,” Chow says of his thoughts on approaching a signature pasta dish. “The first thing that came to mind was SPAM®.”
Chow grinds the pork up with a little bit of mascarpone cheese, some potato and lemon zest. The filling is stuffed into freshly made agnolotti pouches and served with seasonal vegetables. As of late summer, the dish arrives with summer truffles, yu choy and smoked ham broth.
“We wanted to find a filling that represented who we are. The first thing that came to mind was SPAM®.”Chef Chung Chow
The choice to put SPAM® inside pasta is a way to lure newcomers to try the dish. Chow acknowledges that some of his customers, who didn’t grow up with the product, are leery of it.
“It’s just another meat product,” he says. “Unfortunately, it’s in a can so it can have a bad rap. I don’t know why. People eat hot dogs, which are more processed than SPAM®.”
Noreetuh’s weekend lunch menu features a traditional Hawaiian breakfast with SPAM®, fried eggs and Portuguese sausage.
SPAM®, Chow says, is a pretty foolproof product, but there can be a few tricks to finding new uses for it.
As the holidays near, he suggests grinding or cutting it finely and then using it instead of giblets for a holiday stuffing.
If you julienne cut it, you can use it as a bacon substitute for a cobb salad.
As for his personal favorite way to eat SPAM®, Chow prefers a more minimalist approach.
“I take a couple of slices, sauté it and put it over rice,” he says. “Then I put a little soy sauce over it.”