Men’s Health

Cooking the Unthinkable: Spam

Cooking the Unthinkable is a series that examines some of the more eccentric ingredients. Whether you are a fan of the bizarre or are preparing for the eminent collapse of Western society this series will help you better stomach weird food.

I have never considered Spam luncheon meat to be anything but an economically priced delicacy.  I guess that is one of the bonuses of growing up in the South – we don’t have childish or pretentious attitudes when it comes to food.  If it tastes good and can’t get away we’ll eat it.

So imagine my shock when a Yankee friend actually turned their nose up at an offered fried Spam sandwich.  Seriously?!?!?

It was then that I realized that to many of those oh so judgmental and considerably less-intellectual-than-they-think Northerners, Spam is considered some kind of gross, redneck food.  And Southerners are supposed to be the closed-minded, unintelligent bigots.

Spam, after all, is an American icon – nay an American hero!  Spam, unlike chowdah, pizza or cheesecake defeated the Nazi scourge, avenged the attack on Pearl Harbor and beat back the tide of Socialism across Southeast Asia.  Spam has a very unique history in the lexicon of American cuisine.

What is the biggest argument that anti-Spametics use to justify their infantile phobia?  “Do you know what’s in that stuff?”  Yes, as a matter of fact I do.  You see, if there was anything at all harmful in it they wouldn’t let them sell it.  But if it puts your mind at ease Spam is made up of, “chopped pork shoulder meat, with ham meat added, salt, water, modified potato starch as a binder, and sodium nitrite as a preservative.”  Thanks to Lisa Jones for doing the research on that in the October 2006 issue of Men’s Health.

Wow pork shoulder and ham – how gross.  And that gelatinous goo?  It’s aspic.  It is served at every swank party in the Hamptons and exclusive BBQ'd Spamgolf club in America.  Spam is magical and if you disagree then you are a Nazi-loving, Pearl Harbor-bombing, puppy-kicking Socialist.

I eventually turned the heart of of that poor Yankee when I showed them how well Spam translates to BBQ.  BBQ’d Spam is a true delicacy and it is so easy to make.  Simply slice the Spam about 1/3″ thick, throw it on the grill until a nice crust forms, flip and repeat.  Finally baste each side with your favorite BBQ sauce (a sweet Kansas City style is best) and return to the grill just long enough to caramelize the sauce.   It can be eaten alone or wrapped in white bread.

This flavor combination is so good that I created a pizza using it that I call the SPizza.  Here’s the recipe from my 2010 cookbook, Third Coast Cuisine:

Recipe Type: Appetiser, Entree
Author: Stuart Reb Donald
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 12 mins
Total time: 22 mins
Serves: 4
From Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico.
  • 1 ready made 12” pizza crust (or use your favorite pizza dough)
  • 1/2 cup of a sweet BBQ sauce
  • 1/4 cup onion, diced
  • 2 ounces smoked cheddar cheese, grated
  • 4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 can of Spam, 1/2“dice
  • BBQ dry rub (whatever brand or recipe you prefer)
  • Olive oil
  1. Preheat an oven to 400 degrees (or follow directions on package).
  2. In a skillet sauté the Spam until slightly brown.
  3. Spread the BBQ sauce across the pizza crust leaving a small border. In order scatter 2 ounces of the sharp cheddar cheese, onions, diced Spam, smoked cheddar, and finely the remaining sharp cheddar.
  4. Bake 7 to 12 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and crust is toasty.
  5. Remove to a cutting board and with a basting brush apply the olive oil to the edges of the crust.
  6. Sprinkle the entire pizza with dry rub especially the oiled edges.
  7. Slice and serve.

Shirataki Noodles a Miracle Food?

In Asia they have long enjoyed a type of pasta made from the konjac root. Big deal, right? Pasta is pasta. Not true of this particular pasta. Shirataki or hiragana noodles have only 3 grams of carbohydrates but 1 gram of lean protein and just 20 calories in a 4 ounce serving. Most Americans have heard of them thanks to Rocco DiSirito’s recent appearance on the Rachael Ray Show.

Shirataki noodles are mostly water and glucomannan (from the konjac root), a water-soluble dietary fiber. Though they have little flavor of their own, they easily absorb the flavor of whatever they are served with. Their are some varieties that include tofu, this slightly increases the protein. More importantly it makes the texture more tender. The tofu-less variety tends to have a rubbery texture that may seem odd to the Western palate.

Cheflebrity Ming Tsai, owner of Blue Ginger in Wellesley, Massachusetts, and the host of American Public Television’s Simply Ming recently contributed a recipe using shirataki noodles to Men’s Health Magazine. Here it is:

Soy Pork Shirataki Stir-Fry

Canola oil
2 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp minced ginger
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup naturally brewed soy sauce (sub in low-sodium soy, if you prefer)
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 head bok choy, rinsed, spun dry, and cut into pieces
1/2 bunch scallions, thinly sliced, whites and greens separated
2 red bell peppers, cut into 1-by-1-inch pieces
1 lb ground pork, browned
2 cups fettuccine-type shirataki noodles, packed, rinsed well (three times), and drained

How to make it:
1. Coat the bottom of a saucepan lightly with canola oil and place it on medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger, along with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook until softened, about 3 minutes.

2. Add the lime juice, soy sauce, and sugar. Bring to a simmer and let the mixture reduce by a third to a syrup consistency, 8 to 10 minutes. To check consistency, pour a line of syrup on a cool dish and hold it vertically. If the line holds with a few drips, it’s ready.

3. Use some oil to lightly coat the bottom of a large, hot wok over high heat. (If you don’t have a wok, you can use a skillet over high heat.) When the oil is shimmering, add the bok choy, scallion whites, and red bell peppers, and stir-fry until they’re slightly softened, about 1 minute. Add the pork, noodles, and garlic-ginger-soy syrup, and stir to coat the noodles with sauce. Check for flavor, and season with salt and pepper if necessary. Serve family-style on a platter, garnished with scallion greens. Serves 4

Per serving: 461 calories, 35 grams (g) protein, 27 g carbohydrates, 25 g fat, 7 g fiber

The Men’s Health piece features more information and recipes for this amazing pasta.

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less

Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards

2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up


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