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Actually, Spam Is Good



Straight out of the can, Spam has the mouthfeel of a pinkish pâté and the look of congealed goo, putting it in stark contrast with artisanal cookery. “It doesn’t check any of the boxes of ethically sourced, local, healthy, or organic,” says Kamala Saxton of Seattle’s Korean-Hawaiian restaurant chain Marination. “It’s made in Minnesota by a big food conglomerate, and it has the highest amount of sodium of any meat you’ve ever had.”

But … Spam is delicious. When seared, the fat crisps up, making the savory slice of meat a worthy swap-in for bacon—though with a little more body—and adding a salty note to a wide range of dishes. And now, chefs from New York to Los Angeles to Seattle are serving up the tinned meat—many as an homage to their childhoods growing up in places like Hawaii, Korea, and the Philippines, where American GIs left cans of it behind. In the years after World War II and the Korean War, as resources remained scarce, the shelf-stable mixture of pork shoulder, ham, salt, water, potato starch (to help bind the emulsion), and sugar and sodium nitrite (to preserve the meat), endured in these locales, integrating into their cuisines. “Now Spam is so much a part of Korean culture, some people give Spam gift sets to friends and family for the holidays,” says JP Park, chef-owner of Atoboy in New York City.