Thursday, May 4, 2023

Honolulu's Spam Jam fest celebrates canned treat beloved in Hawaii

Four happy Spam Jam patrons head for a picnic table after choosing their dining fare.



Even Honolulu's doggies get in the "Spam Spirit." 


SAY WHAT you will about Spam, that pink, salty staple of soldiers in World War II, and a favorite part of every Hawaiian's diet.

Spam has longevity, large appeal and love behind it. Nowhere is that affection more apparent than in Honolulu during the annual Spam Jam which we attended.

 Acclaimed Honolulu chef Christopher George of Shorefyre, a popular eatery, is among those whose creativity originated the festival. He manned one of the most popular food booths, specializing in poke and gourmet pizza.   Lines snaked down Kalakaua Avenue as throngs lined up for his succulent poke bowls and Spam pizza, a delicious, spicy nod to the Naples invention with pineapple, Spam and red pepper.

Don't mess with this Spam lover!
PEOPLE LINED up for not just the Spam treats -- from tacos to wraps, skewers, pizza and more -- to Spam t-shirts and other memorabilia.
Mostly, folks were there to have fun, enjoying Hawaiian singing, storytelling and the chance to revive a festival that was on hiatus during COVID. Part of the proceeds go to various non-profit causes, so that's a pleasant incentive.
"It's the perfect way to celebrate Hawaii's love for Spam and help others," Barbara Campbell, co-founder of Waikiki Spam Jam Festival, told Pacific Business News.
After being shut down for three years, folks are in a "Spam Fest" mood. Bartender James at our  lovely Hokulani Hotel said, "It's great fun to have the Spam fest back in business."
"We all love Spam," he said, pouring a customer's festive drink at the hotel's rooftop bar overlooking the festival. Children grow up on Spam, he noted, developing a love for it as infants.
Despite all the jokes we've heard about Spam, the product does serious business. 
Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers join the
throngs at Honolulu's merry "Spam Jam." Below left,
nori or seaweed, with rice and Spam, a favorite snack.
Hormel produces it in Austin, Minnesota, known as "Spam Town USA." There are 15 kinds, from pepper to chorizo to turkey, hickory smoke, garlic, bacon and more.
Everywhere we went, we saw Spam offerings.
That's because by the end of WWII, Spam had been adopted into local Hawaiian culture.
FRIED SPAM with rice is a classic dish, with scrambled eggs or a fried egg on top of the rice.
Cookie opens a Spam musubi. 
Our Japanese bartender called it "Portagee Steak" which is what many Hawaiians call Spam. It's often listed as such on menus, a nod to the long Portuguese heritage on the islands.  A favorite local dish here is Spam musubi, which we tried -- where cooked Spam is placed atop rice and wrapped in a band of nori, a form of nigiri sushi.
Hawaiians consume seven million cans of Spam a year serving it in Spam eggrolls, Spam fried rice, Spam tacos, Spam burritos with beans, Spam kebobs, Spam wonton, Spam sushi, Spam with Korean barbecue sauce and Spam mac and cheese.  Just about anything you'd do with chicken, pork or beef you can do with Spam.  And Hawaiians do.
Why not try creating a Spam specialty yourself" Here's a recipe for "Spam Loco Moco": 

Executive Chef Christopher George
of Shorefyre is well known for his
 inventive dishes and philanthropy.

8 slices of Spam (one can) 
2 tablespoons butter; 1 cup chopped mushrooms; 1 cup chopped onion; 2 cups beef broth; 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce; 2 tblsp cornstarch; 3 tblsp water; 4 cups cooked rice; 4 eggs cooked how you like; 3 tablespoons each chopped Italian parsley and green onion, tomatoes if desired.
Directions: In large skillet over medium heat, cook Spam 3 to 5 minutes until lightly browned. Remove from skillet.
In same skillet, melt butter. Add mushrooms and onions and cook over medium-high heat 6 to 8 minutes or until golden brown and tender.
Add beef broth and Worcestershire sauce to mushroom mixture; bring to boil.
In small bowl, mix cornstarch with water to make a smooth paste. Add to broth mix in pan, whisking until combined and thickened.
Spam loco moco is served in
many Hawaiian homes & cafes.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Divide rice among 4 plates. Place 2 slices of Spam on top of
rice. Serve gravy sauce on the side or top with gravy before serving. Either way, add 1 egg, scrambled, poached or over easy. (Most people prefer over easy.)
Garnish with chosen sprinkles -- parsley, green onion and tomato.
View from Hotel
FOR PROXIMITY to Kalakaua Avenue, a major lifeline and Honolulu's main street, we recommend Hokulani Hotel.  When the street was blocked off for the festival, it was possible to move down the sidewalk easily to the welcoming Hokulani.  The hotel is popular with both American and Japanese tourists for its city views, friendly staff, fun Italian restaurant and rooftop pool and bar.  One can enter from street level or up an escalator to the second floor lobby, which features fresh orchids and a staff that understands the Hawaiian spirit of family or ohana:

From left, Dylan Woodford, Leonardo Cecchi, Max Oliver and
Hannah Battersby dance and delight. Photograph by Richard Andert
BEST ON THE BOARDS: "Footloose" at Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center is reaping raves for its dancing, energy and touching story. Themes abound in the saga of a talented young man who challenges a "no dancing" edict in a small rural town. It's a metaphor for the need for freedom, healing, forgiveness, change and personal growth. Songwriter turned screenwriter Dean Pitchford took a 1980 news story about high school students challenging an 80-year-old ban on dancing in their small Oklahoma town and scripted the hit 1980s film. This lauded production is adapted from the later Tony nominated Broadway musical, featuring music by Kenny Loggins. The energetic cast touches the heart and the dancing delights all ages.

One of dozens of exhibits at the Bishop Museum.
The extraordinary complex celebrates the cultures of the
South Pacific and the wife of founder Charles Reed Bishop.
UP NEXT: While we're enjoying Hawaii, don't miss a visit to the world renowned Bishop Museum.  Come with us to an extraordinary space, where we'll explore the culture of the  vast South Pacific and its colorful islands. The museum's carefully curated exhibits feature the cultures of Fiji, Tonga and Samoa, the Hawaiian Islands and more. The Honolulu museum is famous for its focus on the native peoples of Hawaii. It goes beyond to explore the history of other fascinating islands -- from French Polynesia to the Cook Islands.  You'll see artfully designed exhibits, beautiful tapestries and feather work, wildlife exhibits, musical instruments, hands-on displays to encourage learning, and a fascinating study of the early sailors who transited the Pacific. Then we explore another spectacular museum in Wellington.  The extraordinary Te Papa Museum is among free attractions in this lively New Zealand city. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on the arts, travel, nature and more at 


  1. Loved the Spam fest yarn and fun photos. Bishop Museum a favorite.

  2. We grew up on Spam and loved your story and! Mahalo.

  3. Spam is synonymous with Hawaiian culture. We love it. Thanks!!