7 Spam Dishes Eaten Around the World

Richard Lee via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Richard Lee via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 / Richard Lee via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Few things are more American than processed meat in a can. But the appeal of Spam—the porky, salty luncheon loaf produced by Hormel—transcends national borders. If you’re still waiting to be turned on to the wonders of Spam, perhaps the addition of Velveeta, nori, or mushy peas will help it go down easier.


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Spam migrated to England during World War II. The product’s long shelf life made it a convenient source of protein for U.S. troops and rationing turned it into a delicacy for the citizens of the places they occupied. Today fresh meat is much easier to come by in the UK, but Brits still have a soft spot in their hearts for the canned stuff. One popular British preparation of the ingredient puts a twist on the classic fish and chips. Spam fritters are made by dredging slices of the meat in batter and frying them up in a pan. The proper British serving suggestion calls for thick-cut chips and mushy peas on the side.


Spam rivals scrapple as one of the most unusual meat products to appear on a breakfast plate. In the Philippines, it’s fried up like bacon and served alongside rice and a sunny side up egg. When you put all the components together—Spam, sinangag (fried rice), and pritong itlog (fried egg)—you get Spamsilog. Tomatoes and cucumbers on the side are optional.


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If one dish perfectly sums up the mish-mash of cultures that make up Hawaii, it’s Spam musabi. At first glance it resembles traditional sushi with a strip of nori (seaweed) binding together rice and protein. But upon closer inspection you’ll see the protein is actually a slice of crispy, caramelized Spam. On the islands this treat can be found everywhere from school cafeterias to 7-Elevens.


Puerto Rico’s Sandwich de Mezcla (or “the mix”) is an unapologetic celebration of processed goodness. The contents consist of canned pimentos, Velveeta or Cheez Whiz, and Spam all blended together in a food processor. It’s smeared between two slices of white bread and commonly served at parties.


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Okinawa is home to a vibrant food scene—one that includes soba noodles, taco rice, and yes, Spam. Goya Chanpuru, made from tofu, egg, bitter gourd, and cubes of Spam, is one of the island’s signature dishes. The American product weaseled its way into the local cuisine through the U.S. military’s occupation of Okinawa during World War II. The history of the stir-fry actually dates back 1000 years, but when SBS asked a 90-year-old Okinawa native what was used in the dish before Spam she replied, “I don’t even remember.”


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In South Korea, Spam is marketed as a luxury product and given as a gift at holidays. Koreans consume so much of it that their population of 50 million people make up the world’s second largest Spam market (right behind the U.S., which has a population of over 300 million). The nation’s most iconic Spam dish is Budae Jjigae, or army stew. There’s a lot going on with this recipe: In addition to Spam, it contains kimchi, chili paste, hot dogs, beans, pre-packaged cheese, and instant ramen noodles. The dish originated during the Korean War when locals were desperate for food. Army rations smuggled out of U.S. bases were tossed together in a pot and spiced with traditional Korean flavors to create the gut-busting meal. The dish, which comes served in a gigantic bowl, is meant to be shared.


Macaroni soup is so ubiquitous in Hong Kong that it’s included on McDonald’s breakfast menus. Traditionally served with a slice of ham, Spam became the starring ingredient when it was introduced by British colonizers in the 1940s. The recipe isn’t overly complicated: canned corn adds some crunch while the egg on top passes it off as a breakfast dish no matter where in the world you're dining.