Ad Hoc entertainment Filipino SPAM Thomas Keller Featured on Kababayan LA

I didn’t do a very good job promoting this appearance, but I was the featured blogger on Kababayan LA’s weekly segment known as Viral Thursdays. Hosted by Jannelle So, Kababayan LA is a LA18’s daily Filipino newsmagazine show. It airs weekday afternoons at 4:30pm on Channel 18 in Southern California.

I thought the interview went really well, and we talked about a range of topics, including my blogging origins, Ad Hoc’s Swine and Wine and my Filipino Spaghetti post, which Jannelle said gave her a Jollibee craving.

Here’s the video. My segment starts at the 57-second mark.

When I was talking about the Ad Hoc Swine and Wine, they showed some random pictures of lechon as I was talking, probably because I didn’t have any other pictures of the actual Ad Hoc pig posted here. I thought that was pretty funny.

Despite how serious I look, I had a really good time. I wasn’t able to see Jannelle during the interview, so I was forced to respond to her questions while staring into my laptop camera, which was awkward. Luckily, my face isn’t on screen as much as it could have been.

Thanks to Jannelle and everyone at Kababayan LA for having me on the show. Let’s do it again some time!

Mexican recipes SPAM

Chilaquiles con “Lardones” de SPAM

A friend’s Facebook status message this morning that mentioned a chilaquiles craving inspired this crazy dish. I haven’t had chilaquiles since our trip to Chicago, and this version won’t win any awards for authenticity, but the final product was delicious, and that’s all that matters, right?

Chilaquiles con Lardones de SPAMSome cracked-out chilaquiles.

This recipe is pretty cracked out since I had to improvise on the ingredients. I had some old tortillas, but I didn’t have any salsa verde. The only salsa I had was an almost-finished jar of Trader Joe’s Salsa Authentica, but there wasn’t enough. I found an old bottle of La Victoria red taco sauce in the fridge and mixed that into the salsa. I didn’t have any eggs or crema mexicana so I mixed some sour cream with a little water to thin it out and drizzled it on top of the chilaquiles.

I chose SPAM because it was the only meat I had readily available, and I’m always looking for new ways to prepare SPAM anyway. I wasn’t sure how I wanted to cut up the SPAM, but as I thought about, the “lardon” idea came to me. Lardons are generally bacon cut into thick chunks, so I thought I do the same with the SPAM.

SPAM SPAM “lardons”
musings OMG SPAM

Desperate Times Renew Demand for SPAM

I don’t post about it much, but SPAM is treated with reverence at “SPAM is good food” is still the default tagline for most of my online profiles and my Yelp avatar was a SPAM can before I started using the Inuyaki dog logo. I even wore a SPAM T-shirt to Slow Food Nation in San Francisco earlier this year.

SPAM ShrineOur personal SPAM shrine.

As the economy worsens in the U.S., Hormel looks like it will be one of the few companies that weather the storm as American demand for SPAM increases. SPAM sales are on the rise as Americans look for alternatives to more expensive cuts of meat.

From today’s New York Times:

Spam “seems to do well when hard times hit,” said Dan Bartel, business agent for the union local. “We’ll probably see Spam lines instead of soup lines.”

Even as consumers are cutting back on all sorts of goods, Spam is among a select group of thrifty grocery items that are selling steadily.

If you don’t know the history of SPAM, this passage breaks it down succinctly.

Spam holds a special place in America’s culinary history, both as a source of humor and of cheap protein during hard times.

Invented during the Great Depression by Jay Hormel, the son of the company’s founder, Spam is a combination of ham, pork, sugar, salt, water, potato starch and a “hint” of sodium nitrate “to help Spam keep its gorgeous pink color,” according to Hormel’s SPAM Web site.

Because it is vacuum-sealed in a can and does not require refrigeration, Spam can last for years. Hormel says “it’s like meat with a pause button.”

During World War II, Spam became a staple for Allied troops overseas. They introduced it to local residents, and it remains popular in many parts of the world where the troops were stationed.

Thanks to the U.S. military, Filipinos have a long history of SPAM consumption, as well as canned corned beef and Vienna sausages, all of which I ate regularly as a child. But as I got older and tried to be “healthier” (whatever that means, haha), SPAM faded from my consciousness, although I do remember being introduced to SPAM musubi when I was in college.

About six years ago, SPAM reentered my life when I started working with a bunch of guys from Hawaii, where SPAM consumption is the highest per capita than anywhere else in the world. Then I met my my future wife, who is also from Hawaii, and SPAM became part of my life again.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t eat SPAM regularly—that would be crazy. But I don’t fear SPAM (like Bizarre Foods’ Andrew Zimmern), and there’s a sense of comfort that arises from a bowl of SPAM fried rice or a plate of SPAM and eggs that can’t be duplicated by anything else.

SPAM and EggsBreakfast of Champions, although I probably ate this for dinner. :)

I’m glad that SPAM is experience a renaissance, but it would be nicer if it wasn’t because of such dire circumstances. Maybe the economic downturn will help people truly appreciate SPAM instead of loathing it.

musings SPAM Thomas Keller

The Spam Laundry — Part 2: The Original Text

My last post about a Saveur magazine article detailing Jayson Pahlmeyer’s once-in-a-lifetime SPAM tasting menu at The French Laundry generated a lot of hits on this site, including a comment by Andrew Kubersky, Jayson’s friend and ghost writer for the Saveur piece, who said his original article was much funnier than the edited version that appeared in the magazine. I emailed him back and asked if he could send me the original article so that I might publish it here, and he happily obliged.

After comparing both versions of the article, it’s obvious that Saveur edited the original for style and length, but overall, I thought they stayed true to the vibe of the original submission. What the magazine left out, however, was an expanded paragraph on Jayson’s SPAM lust, some more specific details of both his and the rest of his family’s meal, and a another funny SPAM anecdote that occurred after a subsequent visit to The French Laundry. I’ve done some minor editing and excerpted them for you below.


My friends and family know of my Spam-lust. I make no attempt to disassociate myself from it, and quite to the contrary, bellow it with bravado. I wear a Spam tie, a Spam hat and Spam boxer shorts (with apologies to Tom Wolfe, talk about “Spam in the can”). As a result, I have been the target of unending Spam jokes. At my bachelor party, when others were served rack of lamb or fillet of salmon, I was served grilled slices of it on a silver platter. As tears of laughter and pain rolled down my cheeks the Spam was happily removed…


…It was when we were served Thomas’ small cones (“cornets”) of salmon tartar with créme fraîche that I realized that he had something in store. I didn’t get one and I like them a lot. Instead, the waiter presented me with Cornets of Minced Spam with Sweet Red Onion Cream. I laughed. “This was a great joke, Thomas,” I thought. “This will teach me to be careful what I wish for.” But the joke wasn’t close to being over.

As I ate Consommé of Spam with their Crescents, the family was enjoying Lobster Consommé en Gelée. While I was served Garden Tomato Sorbet with a Crispy Spam Chip, the family was savoring Cucumber Sorbet with Dill Sauce. It went on, and I couldn’t stop it. Yukon Gold Potato Blinis with Butter Spam Emulsion were followed by Perigord Truffle Omellete with Spam “Rissole,” which in turn was followed by Spam Custard Servi En Son Boîte (in its container). It was as though Spam was “The Ingredient” on The Iron Chef television show. Each dish was an ironic parody of a regular (for The French Laundry) menu item.

As my jaw dropped lower and lower, the smiles on Paige and the kids were broadening. They were savoring Jumbo Scallops with Morel Mushrooms and Asparagus Puree, Spotted Skate Wings with Braised Red Cabbage and Mustard Sauce, Roasted Guinea Fowl en Crépinette de Byaldi and Whole Roasted Moulard Duck Foie Gras. They were also relishing my growing discomfort. I was miserable. Despite my heartfelt pleas, the waiters could not dissuade Thomas from his plan.

What could I do? Under the circumstances I had to eat the Spam. To be sure, there was Thomas’ genius in the Spam preparations. But, still, it was just Spam in the Can and we were at The French Laundry, for God’s sake. I love being the center of attention but this time the joke certainly was on me. I paid French Laundry prices for Spam…


It was about two months later that we returned to The French Laundry and were joined by Andrew Kubersky, long-time friend, gifted home-chef, writer and consultant, and his wife Marita. The kitchen must have prepared 25 courses (no Spam) for us that night. Who knows? I was in no shape to keep track, having hosted a huge Pahlmeyer wine tasting party for half the day, immediately preceding dinner.

Afterward, they drove with us to our place in Napa to spend the night. We weren’t home more than a few minutes when Paige opened a can of Spam, sliced the meat, and started to sauté it for me. It was after midnight. Dinner had lasted about six hours. The appalled expression on Andy’s face was priceless as he watched Paige cook the Spam.

“How can you do this? We just dined at The French Laundry,” he pleaded.

Paige explained that that I found out years ago that Spam would prevent a hangover (due to its fat content). Perhaps this is what Hormel meant in the 1930’s when they marketed Spam as “miracle meat.”


Thanks again to Andrew for sending me the original version of the article and letting me publish parts of it here. And cheers to Jayson for being such a good sport about his SPAM obsession. I know I get my share of it from friends that just don’t understand the beauty of SPAM or why we have a SPAM shrine in our home. Luckily, my wife is from Hawaii, so SPAM is always welcome on our plates and in our stomachs.

musings SPAM The French Laundry Thomas Keller

The SPAM Laundry?

I saw on a recent eGullet Forum thread that Thomas Keller once prepared a SPAM tasting menu at The French Laundry for one of his friends. This momentous event in SPAM-dom was chronicled in the May/June 2001 Saveur magazine by winemaker Jayson Pahlmeyer of Pahlmeyer Wines, who was the (lucky?) recipient of the SPAM tasting menu.

As an ardent fan of both SPAM and Keller, and because I featured newly converted SPAM fan Anthony Bourdain on this site a couple days ago, I went looking for the article but couldn’t find it on Saveur’s Web site. I ended finding a copy of the magazine on eBay for $5, so I bought one and transcribed it so you can read this funny story.

I love that Keller embraced SPAM as a viable ingredient and committed himself to the “joke” by creating an entire tasting menu based on a meat product that is both loved by so many (like me) and reviled by others (most of my non-Asian friends). It shows both his keen sense of humor and versatility as a chef, and I became enamored by SPAM’s potential for greatness in Keller’s hands.

For the record, I still haven’t had the chance to eat at The French Laundry (reservations are probably the toughest in the world), but I am anxiously awaiting the opportunity to experience it first hand. In the interim, visits to Bouchon, Bouchon Bakery and Ad Hoc keep me happy…for now. ;)

(Thomas Keller picture from the Ad Hoc Web site.)

Anthony Bourdain entertainment Hawaii Hawaiian Oahu SPAM TV

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.”