The visitor to Hawaii may be surprised or perplexed by why SPAM® is popular in Hawaii. You’ll find it in restaurants all over, and stacked high in local grocery stores. It makes its way into Asian cuisine, is served in sandwiches, and may be stir-fried with a variety of vegetables. The reasons for why SPAM® is popular in Hawaii are numerous, and some of them far-fetched. What can be gleaned is that Hawaii remains one of the largest by state consumers of SPAM®, with people eating roughly 5.6 cans of SPAM® per year on average.
The principle explanation for why SPAM® is popular in Hawaii is that is portable, durable meat that does not require any type of refrigeration. It was first introduced during WWII by American soldiers to Hawaiian natives, who quickly adopted it as an important part of their diet. In the Hawaiian islands where the weather quickly changes, and especially during wartime, the ability to have portable meat products that can be used in case of emergency was especially desirable.
With Asian influence on Hawaiian cuisine, SPAM® is popular in Hawaii also because it goes well with numerous Asian foods. A quick stir-fry of SPAM® and veggies, or SPAM® sushi is relatively standard. It’s not that much different than the salted pork used in many Asian foods, since it is in fact pork shoulder and ham combined. Therefore it works as a good substitute for fresher and non-canned alternatives. This at least explains in part why SPAM® is popular in Hawaii.
Having worked its way into a variety of Hawaiian cuisine, it remains a mainstay of the Hawaiian culture. Early Hawaiians in the WWII era remarked on its usefulness and quickly developed recipes incorporating it. This resulted in kids who were raised eating lots of SPAM®. We all see foods in different cultures that we might not be fond of, unless we were raised eating it. If you introduce a food to a child early, chances are they’ll remain fond of it, though not every Hawaiian eats SPAM®.
Thus SPAM® is popular in Hawaii because it is so widely used, and many simply love it. For many it evokes the food of their childhood, and its uses are clearly multiple. New recipes for SPAM® are greatly welcomed, and SPAM® has worked its way into a variety of dishes. It makes for excellent breakfast, lunch or dinner food and requires minimal care. Like poi, another popular Hawaiian mainstay, not so popular in other states, SPAM® is popular in Hawaii and likely to remain so because of its common use.