Sunday, August 19, 2012

Having fun with Two-Can Spam: “Vietnamese Style” Spam

No, not a certain avian purveyor of artificially flavored corn circles, but two cans of that mechanically processed pork product.

So why Spam for this post? A number of reasons. One, I felt it’s been a while since I posted on r/asianeats, and this is… vaguely Asian, since I think my family is one of the few that does it this way (and since we’re Vietnamese that automatically qualifies it as Asian right?) And secondly because it is “boring to great” week on r/52weeksofcooking, and Spam was listed right there as a boring food.

I’m not sure what h3ather meant when she said that spam was boring. Don’t get me wrong, I know spam has an extremely large and outspoken contingent of detractors, and there’s a lot of negative adjectives that can be applied to it, but boring would not be the first word I applied to it. Since I actually like Spam, I will not repeat those words here.

Oh yeah, before I forget, nobody in my household eats a can of spam over a kitchen sink. We have however eaten it with a pocketknife on one of the sandy shores at Yosemite, along with baguette. After a long day of hiking, eating it like that in the shade is just wonderful. But I digress.


So, Vietnamese style spam, what is that exactly? It’s actually two dishes actually that go well with rice. Here’s some of the stuff you’ll need for both. Two cans of spam (well, one will do really) cabbage, onion, a red chili, garlic. You will also need a big of fish sauce. And that automatically ups the “Vietnameseness” of any dish. Well, it could also up the Thai-ness, Phillipinesness or Cambodeliciousness of a dish as well.

But, I’m Vietnamese, so I’ll call this Vietnamese-style Spam. 

In a nutshell, this is what’s going to happen. The Spam is going to be boiled to leach out some of that excess sodium and “spam flavor” so we can replace it with another form of umami in fish sauce. The water that it is boiled in will be used to cook up some cabbage, so that the cabbage’s sweetness will be just offset a bit by the slight savory quality of the “hot spam water” a cousin to hot ham water.

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Crack open the cans of Spam.

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Admire, or gag if you have a weak stomach and hate Spam. Just go to or something if you can’t handle this. It’s ok, I understand.

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Slice in half “hamburger style.” They’re separated so you can see how I made the cut.

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Then slice them into four lengths.

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Then slice each of these pieces into thirds.

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Place in a pot.

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Cover with water, then set over high heat and bring to a boil. Once it hits a boil, you’ll want it to simmer for at least five minutes, but we’ll get to that later.

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Coarsely chop the onion and garlic. You can also cut off a piece of cabbage, and leaf it and tear it coarsely as well.

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When the pot boils, lower heat so it’s a lively simmer.

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After a few minutes, into a heavy pan, splash some vegetable oil and put over high heat.

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In the mean time, scoop out the spam pieces.

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Add a cup of water to the “hot spam water.” This is to give it that delicious “watery flavor.” Or just to cut the salt a bit.

When it comes to a boil, toss in your cabbage leaves and cook for a few minutes.

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Now back to the pan. Toss in the onion and half of a chile, cut into pieces. Cook until the onion starts to become translucent.

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Add the spam pieces, and occasionally toss and stir to try to brown as much of the sides as possible.

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Depending on your speed and the thickness of your cabbage leaves, they just might be done. When they’re a nice shiny green and seem tender, they’re good to go.

Keep that hot spam water now, we might need it.

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Continue tossing the spam pieces until more of the sides take on a nice browning. You could be anal retentive and try to sear all of the sides, but that may be more time than you have. Trying to go for two sides a piece is pretty good.

Drizzle very lightly with some fish sauce and toss well.

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If you like a bit of sauce, add just a little bit of the hot spam water to the pan and cook it down slightly. This will soften the onions, as well as aid in spreading the heat from the red chili as well as the fish sauce.

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Plate, and serve with rice.

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And there you have it, Vietnamese Style Spam and Spam Water blanched cabbage.

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These are actually a pretty good camping dishes, since you get two dishes for the price of one almost. The “waste” water can be used again for cooking the cabbage. For the particularly brave, you can just keep the cabbage in the water and use it as a kind of soup, if you’re into that sort of thing.

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Vietnamese Style Spam

  • 2 cans of Spam
  • 1/3 of an onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 a chili pepper, cut into pieces.
  • A dash of fish sauce
  • vegetable oil for frying
  1. Cut spam into small pieces
  2. Place in pot, cover with water.
  3. Bring to boil, then lower heat. Simmer for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Remove from water, reserving the liquid.
  5. Set a heavy pan over high heat, then add a dash of vegetable oil.
  6. When hot, add the onion and chili pepper and cook for a few minutes until the onion is translucent.
  7. Add spam and garlic and cook, tossing occasionally for even browning.
  8. When the spam is cooked to your liking, add a small dash of fish sauce and toss.
  9. (optionally) Add a bit of the reserved spam water to help soften the onions and make a “pan sauce.” Toss well, then serve.

Cabbage blanched in Spam Water

  • 1/4 a head of cabbage, leafed
  • Reserved Spam Water
  1. Add a half cup of water to spam water. Bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer.
  2. Add cabbage, stir and cook until it is tender and bright green.
  3. Drain (reserving spam water if necessary) and serve.

Still here? I’ll leave you with this song!

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