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Bourdain Latest in Long Line of SPAM Converts

This week’s episode of No Reservations brought Anthony Bourdain to Hawaii, and it was fun watching him enjoy some of the great food and drink Hawaii has to offer. I’ve been waiting for this show to air because I was curious about his impressions of local culture and cuisine, and I figured he’d be brutally honest about his experience.

Overall, the show did a pretty good job covering Hawaii in a short amount of time, but the most satisfying part of the show was when Bourdain professed his love for everyone’s favorite mystery meat…SPAM!

At the New Uptown Fountain in Kalihi, Bourdain settled into a meal with Honolulu Advertiser food columnist David Choo that can best be described as a local “tasting menu” that featured several local favorites, including different presentations of SPAM. (Choo chronicles his entire Bourdain experience on his blog, appropriately called Choo On This.

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First up was SPAM Musubi (a.k.a. SPAM sushi), but this version had a fried rice filling instead of the traditional steamed rice.

“That’s great,” Bourdain said. “I’m thinking stoned at two o’clock in the morning, watching TV…I want this really badly.”

Next up was what Bourdain described “a SPAM frittata with kimchee on top, floating in curry sauce.” I’ve never heard of this concoction, but it looked great and apparently it’s a house specialty. After a little riff on how the hospitals in Hawaii must do tremendous business because of the food locals are eating, Bourdain said, “I’m going to stroke out at the end of this meal.”

A plate of SPAM, eggs and fried rice was next, followed by an intermezzo of chicken tofu and some homemade chili before a bowl of SPAM saimin arrived at the table. There were lots of other non-SPAM dishes on the table, including one of my favorites, Loco Moco (hamburger patty, over-easy eggs served over rice and mac salad and smothered in gravy), to which Bourdain remarked, “This…don’t even tell anyone that I enjoyed that.”

(NOTE: This chronology is based on what aired and is a product of editing. For more details on the meal, see Choo’s blog above.)

All in all, it was pretty funny watching Bourdain have his SPAM epiphany in Hawaii, probably the best place in the world to eat SPAM.

“In all of its high-sodium, gravy-drenched glory, SPAM has in every sense found its way into my heart,” he said. “I get it now. I feel inducted into the Church of True Knowledge.”

Throughout the episode, Bourdain’s observations about local culture showed that he really “gets” Hawaii in the sense that he understands how its plantation history, which includes the importation of labor from China, Japan, Korea and the Philippines to work the fields, as well as U.S military occupation and eventual statehood, helped create a unique, diverse local population and cultivated the beautiful mish-mosh of cuisine that accompanies it. He even called Hawaii “America’s Singapore.”

In addition to feasting on SPAM, Bourdain also visited Ono Hawaiian Foods, one of my favorite places to eat in Oahu, Side Street Inn, where he met up with a bunch of local chefs including Alan Wong, and Bailey’s Aloha Shirts on Kapahulu Ave., where he bought a $3000 Aloha shirt.

For more information on this episode of No Reservations, check out the No Reservations page on the Travel Channel Web site.

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