I can’t believe I had forgotten to share this recipe with you…
Hawaii is the number 1 consumer of SPAM in the United States… Apparently, Hawaiians love their potted meat. I have to admit, back in the days when I was growing up I looooved when my grandma made for us Spam sandwiches with mayo on criollo bread. That was a treat we only ate while on vacations.
Now… my tastes have changed. And while I wanted to bring a traditional and authentic take of a Hawaiian Luau to my Yogi friends, I also wanted to make it accessible to everyone. Some of us have access to good vegetarian “hams”, but I figured that eggplant is something most of you will be able to get and will not cringe when you read it on a recipe. The teriyaki marinade is what will bring it all together in true Hawaiian musubi fashion.
This recipe is a tad long… but there are just 3 main steps – 1. cook the rice, 2. cook the eggplant, 3. assemble the musubi. So don’t be overwhelmed by it all. I used two small plastic containers of the same size that can fit one inside the other to form my musubi. There are musubi contraptions, but I could not find one for the life of me in Puerto Rico. Once you get the hang of it… it will be a breeze.
2 cups short grain brown rice
3 cups water
1/3 cup plain unseasoned rice vinegar
3 tbs brown sugar
½ tsp salt
2 small eggplants, peeled and sliced thinly
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup brown sugar
4 cloves garlic, grated
1-inch piece of ginger, grated
About ¼ cup of Black Sesame Gomasio as seasoning
2 nori sheets, cut into thin strips
- First, cook the rice… I use a rice cooker, but you can do it on the stove top if you prefer. The idea is to cook the rice thoroughly but that it’s a tad sticky. Not fluffy for sure. Although by using short grain rice you get that consistency inherently.
- Cook the rice without oil, just a light sprinkling of salt. In a measuring cup mix together the rice vinegar, the 3 tbs of brown sugar and salt. Set aside. After the rice is cooked, transfer to a plastic or wooden bowl to cool completely. While rice is still hot, drizzle the vinegar/brown sugar mixture over the rice to season. Set aside for the rice to cool completely.
- Secondly, we season the eggplant… Using a mandolin or a very sharp knife, slice eggplant in thin, ¼ inch slices. In a large flat container mix together the marinade for the eggplant – soy sauce, brown sugar, grated garlic and ginger. Mix together well to make sure the sugar dissolves well in the soy sauce. Add the eggplant slices to the marinade, making sure all sides of eggplant are coated with the marinade. Marinate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
- Heat olive oil in a non-stick skillet or griddle and pan-fry the marinated eggplant slices until caramelized, about 2 minutes on each side. As you cook the eggplant slices, set aside on a baking sheet.
- So now… we assemble the musubi. Moisten your hands with water. It will help with the rice not sticking as much to your fingers while you’re assembling. Take about 2 tbs or rice into the bottom of the plastic container. Sprinkle lightly some black sesame gomasio as seasoning over the rice. Place a piece of eggplant over the rice. Fold the eggplant slice if it’s necessary to fit into the small plastic container. With the secong plastic container press the eggplant/rice tower to form a compact package. Using a sharp knife separate the rice/eggplant for the edges and flip over and tap on a cutting board for the rice/eggplant to release from the container.
- Wrap with a thin strip of nori. The nori sheets come scored in strips, we cut each of those strips in half, to make them yiled more strips for sheet.
Musubi tastes best the same day it is made. Never refrigerate because the cold makes the rice hardens and it’s not very nice to eat.
As you can see, the recipe has a few steps, but it’s not very difficult to make. And when you get the hang of making the musubi, it becomes kinda like an assembly line. I want to thank Jesús Omar for being my musubi assistant the day we had to make 50+ musubis for the Hawaiian Vegetarian Festival. The crowd was surprised they were eating “vegetarian sushi” for the first time.
Next time, I will definitely try to make this with what they call “sham spam”… my version, of course. Stay tuned.