Waikiki SPAMJam in Oahu Hawaii
SPAMJam. What can I say? It was an incredible experience! I am so thankful to Outrigger Resorts for graciously inviting me to discover what can only be described as a food extravaganza of the highest order!
There are doubters. I had many questions on Instagram asking: “is SPAM really a big deal? Does SPAM really taste good?”
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To all these questions I say: YES!
Except for the island of Guam, Hawaii is the largest consumer of SPAM in the world. The most typical breakfast for many Hawaiians is rice, eggs, and SPAM. I can attest that this is delicious! But then again, one of my go-to meals, when I am cooking for myself at home, is rice with scrambled eggs on top, seaweed, and sriracha….so I might be a little biased!
In fact, it was while Bitsy Kelley, granddaughter of the founders of the Outrigger Resorts was cooking this very breakfast for the hotels’ housekeepers during Housekeeper Appreciation Week that she had an epiphany. Bitsy knew that Hormel had a festival in the local area where they produce SPAM – Austin, Minnesota, but she sincerely believed that it belonged in Hawaii! She, along with her partner in crime Barbara Campbell, began cold-calling Hormel until they convinced them that there needed to be a SPAMJam in Waikiki.
And that is exactly what happened!
Thirteen years ago, the first Waikiki SPAMJam took place and it has been thriving ever since.
Before getting into more details about the event, I want to share more about how SPAM is very much a part of Hawaii’s food culture.
Besides SPAM for breakfast, the next most popular item is musubi. The amount of musubi available throughout all the islands is jaw-dropping. This is my personal favorite way to eat SPAM, in fact, I desperately searched all over Honolulu airport to find one to eat on the plane home!
Not only is it an island favorite, but it’s also like the entry drug for non-believers. Someone can try SPAM musubi, realize how delicious it is and then they are hooked and ready to explore more.
In fact, Bitsy, who graciously spent an hour with me for an interview that will publish in a separate post remarked on this as well. “Musubi is like those hotdogs that are omnipresent in American gas stations and convenience stores. There is that metal roller that rolls the hotdogs up and down to keep them hot, only in the islands, its musubi warmers! It is really easy for people who have a fear of trying SPAM to try it out with musubi, which is literally available everywhere!”
No need to convince me and I was raring to try all the dishes.
I attended the 13th annual Waikiki SPAMJam festival. Last year there was an estimated 25,000 people; this year they think it was more like 28,000. Needless to say, it is gaining in popularity!
There were 16 restaurants represented, each presenting one to multiple dishes containing SPAM. Being that the festival is the Waikiki SPAMJam, the restaurants are limited to those in the Waikiki area and the festival has actually had to turn non-Waikiki restaurants away. (I think maybe rival festivals may start or, as the festival grows they will need to start letting other restaurants in – it will be interesting to see their growth strategy).
There is no charge to enter SPAMJam, you just pay for your food and drinks with proceeds going to the Hawaiian Food Bank. This year they raised $15,000 (I am sure it actually was higher than that, they still had to count additional donations.)
Besides the exceptional food (more on that in a bit) there is fantastic entertainment on two stages. Singers, dancers, fire-throwers – something for everyone!
But I know what you are here for. You want to know about the SPAM dishes! The Hula Grill inside the Outrigger Waikiki Resort hosted a media event right before the festival opened and we were able to see (and photograph) most of the dishes ahead of time. And taste! I tried everything that was presented inside and then headed out to the street to try everything else!
These are the dishes that were served at the event (restaurants in alphabetical order):
ABC Stores Spicey SPAM Poke.
ABC Stores Spicey SPAM Dynamite Katsu.
Chai Waikiki SPAM with fresh ahi katsu, wasabi curry, and fresh mango salsa.
Eggs n' Things SPAM Bread Pudding.
Eggs n' Things SPAM Cheesecake (with a SPAM crust!).
Gordon Biersch Asian Hoisin SPAM Bao Bun Slider.
Gordon Biersch SPAM Artisan and salami pizza.
Gordon Biersch Mango BBQ SPAM slider.
Gordon Biersch Kama'aina SPAM street tacos.
Hard Rock Cafe Cupcake.
Hard Rock Cafe SPAMac and Cheese Balls.
Hawaiian Crown Plantation Grilled Pineapple and SPAM Skewers.
Hawaiian Crown Plantation Grilled SPAM and Cheese Sliders (with a slice of pineapple).
Hawaiian Crown Plantation Pineapple Sorbet with SPAM Sprinkles.
Hula Grill Waikiki SPAM Fried Rice Loco Moco.
Hula Grill Waikiki Portuguese Sausage SPAM Waffle Dogs.
Jimmy Buffet's SPAM Nachos.
Jimmy Buffet's SPAM Rice Bites.
MAC 24:7 Fried SPAM Pulled Pork Lumpia with SPAM chili garlic calamansi dip.
MAC 24:7 Apple Banana Nutella Lumpia with fried SPAM and peanut butter drizzle.
Ono Pops MacSPAM Brittle: sweet cream ice cream with a swirl of housemade Mac Nut marzipan and shattered brittle of candied SPAM and Mac Nuts.
PF Changs SPAM Lo Mein.
PF Changs SPAM Lettuce Wraps.
Seafood Village SPAM Manapua.
Seafood Village Mixed Plate.
Uncle's North Shore Gourmet The ELVIS with peanut butter, bananas, chocolate chips, and SPAM.
And here are the photo:
Thirst quenched, I was ready to dive back in! After grazing through the remaining dishes, I met up with two other bloggers and our gracious hosts who walked us through and introduced us to many of the chefs. We had the opportunity to do quick interviews and here are just a few I met:
Chef James Alaptin of Mac 24/7 who served my second favorite savory and favorite dessert. Both lumpias. And both DELICIOUS. Chef James is a Bay Area native but has been in the islands for over 25 years now.
For the savory lumpia (fried SPAM pulled pork Lumpia with SPAM chili garlic calamansi dip) he was going for a true umami taste and I think he achieved it!
For the dessert lumpia(apple-banana-Nutella Lumpia with fried SPAM and peanut butter drizzle), he wanted to provide people with a dessert that didn’t have to have SPAM in it. He served SPAM fries on the side, which I stuck inside for each bite!
My pal Katie of Domestiphobia had an exceptional experience in Mac 24/7 several years ago and wrote about it on her blog. I asked Chef James if the subject of her story, a server named Jose, was still working at the restaurant – and he is!
Chef Matt Young of Hula Grill created my absolute favorite dish of the night, a waffle dog with the brand-new, only available in Hawaii (for now) SPAM flavor, Portuguese sausage.
Now given my family’s Portuguese heritage this was not a fair fight and the other chefs didn’t have a chance in gaining the number one position in my heart (despite how good that lumpia from Mac 24/7 was!).
According to Chef Young, waffle dogs used to be a huge thing in the islands, but have sort of faded away in popularity. He decided that using SPAM was the perfect way to reintroduce this island classic. I couldn’t agree more.
The Hula Grill was serving it with a choice of 3 sauces: Asian or Hawaiian and ketchup/mustard. I chose Hawaiian, which was similar to maple syrup.
All I can say is that sweet syrup, with the salty SPAM and delicious outer waffle covering had me thinking about making this at home.
Growing up, my Mom would stick slices of bacon in with the batter in the waffle maker – why couldn’t I try to do the same with thin slices of SPAM? I think I’ve got something there!
And again, I digress…food…
We also visited with Chef Chai whom I had the pleasure of interviewing and meeting at the Food & Wine Festival last September. He is friendly, passionate, and very talented.
His katsu with SPAM and ahi was definitely the most refined dish of the night. He was very thoughtful about the accompanying wasabi curry sauce and pineapple salsa. The flavors were so balanced, the spiciness of the wasabi and the acid from the fruit cut the fattiness of the SPAM while adding just a hint of sweetness.
And the plating was beautiful!
What can I say?
The event was SPAMtastic!
The star of the evening, a food product celebrated and revered in Hawaii is just so versatile. It truly doesn’t take much effort to convince people to try it! You will be a believer! This is absolutely a destination festival. If you have never considered Waikiki, consider visiting during SPAMJam.
Not only will you enjoy the beaches, the ocean, all the things that you might expect of Oahu, but you also get the added bonus of discovering a unique aspect of Hawaii’s food culture.
And if you are coming for SPAMJam (the 14th occurrence of the event has already been announced for April 30 next year!), the Outrigger Waikiki Resort could not be situated in a better location – right in the heart of the festival! The road in front of the hotel is the road the event takes place on. You don’t have to drive anywhere. You can eat, drink, go back to your room for a nap, and head back out and do it all over again!
Despite the fact that Outrigger Resorts sponsored my trip, my opinions are (as always) completely my own. It is a great property with great history (more on that in my Bitsy Kelly interview) and fun restaurants. There is the iconic Duke’s (did you see that Hula Pie I tried?), the delicious Hula Grill (hey, they had my favorite SPAM item!) as well as 4 other restaurants on property. While attending a pre-event party on Friday evening, I really enjoyed watching families spend time at the pool.
And when I moved to a second pre-party event, it was lovely to see the lights over the water as I looked out onto Diamond Head. It is a great location.
It was a quick stay, but a nice stay and I look forward to discovering more of the Outrigger properties in the future!
And Waikiki SPAMJam? I would DEFINITELY come back for more of that!
How about you? What dish do you think you would have liked best?
[And thanks to Alaska Airlines for my transportation to and from Oahu – it was wonderful to meet your island community team!]
DISCLOSURE: My entire trip to Waikiki was paid for by Outrigger Hotels and included all my meals (lots of SPAM) transportation and activities.
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Annnnnd now my mouth is watering. And I’m dying to go back to Hawaii and try me some SPAM dishes! And a waffle dog?? Brilliant!!
Those waffle spams look crazy! Sounds like they were good though. Who knew Spam had such a huge event. We actually like Spam at our house and it is all because of the Weird Al song. We would listen to that a lot and then of course we had to try Spam, so now we are hooked. My husband will fry it up and we will have spam and quesadillas for lunch on Saturdays.
I can’t lie, I have never tried Spam since I am turned off by the texture. However, I think I would be willing to try some of these creative creations featuring Spam. The Spam waffle dog looks like it would be awesome.
SpamJam – are you kidding me?? That looks A-mazing! I love every iteration of it! I had a friend that used to bring a version of Musubi to the beach to snack on between our volleyball games. It was the perfect pick me up. The addition of seaweed and sriracha is another brilliant idea. I need to go find some spam!
OMG you are totally making me homesick! That second photo looks like the Portuguese sausage, eggs and rice meal from McDonalds (only in Hawaii)… and I miss me some teriyaki spam musubi… mmmmmmm!
I can’t say enough how fabulous all the food images look! I had spam for the first time when my husband and I went to Hawaii for a vacation. I dont’ remember it looking so pretty though.
That looks like so much fun! I’m a huge Spam fan, so this would be a super great time for me!
Wow! Who ever knew Spam was so popular! The spam hot dog waffles are killing me. LOL Great post for Spam!
I like Spam Musubi. I live in Korea and its also quite big here like in Hawaii. Koreans even give it as gifts.
I would love to go to Hawaii and stay at that resort at any time. I am not sure about the Spam -I never quite acquired a taste for it, but then I don’t like anything too salty. Maybe if I tried it there in Hawaii it would change my mind.
Now, how lucky you are to be in Hawaii and to be at this Spam bash! Love Spam, we use it at home sometimes, though we are not from Hawaii. It must have been fun to be present at this Spam Bash – and what a great post you wrote about it! I love your pictures, too!
All of this with Spam….you are kidding me. I had no idea none at all. This looks fun. I use to hate spam as a kid but with all these different recipes….I am going to be a fan again.
I had spam as a kid and wasn’t a big fan then. But then again I wasn’t a fan of a lot of things. My tastes have changed as I’ve gotten older, maybe it’s something to try again, especially with these recipes.
All the pics are amazing!! They just want to grab them right now. I really need to start planning my vacation 🙂 Your detailed description of items is really great gives me an idea what to go for first and what I may leave for the end. Great post!
I’ve never been a fan of Spam, especially not now since I follow a mainly vegetarian diet, lol! I hears it’s really popular there…I can’t believe there are so many different ways to prepare Spam!
That is what I would call SPAM Heaven! I think I would like the waffle dog thingy the most, but would try them all just to be sure. 😉
Wow that looks like such fun! I’ve never really been a fan of spam (my husband goes nuts for it!) but I will say that all looks delicious!
Looks like a fun event.. and lots of SPAM dishes 🙂
I am not sure i have ever had spam before. It might just be on my bucket list now.
Wow, I never thought there would ever be such a thing dedicated to spam. My grandma made a spam sandwich for me once and I forced myself to eat it so she wouldn’t feel bad. It’s good to see so many new recipes for it.
What a fun post that brightened my day! While I am not a particular fan of SPAM, I have many childhood memories of how my mum tried to serve it to our family and me!
I’ve never had Spam before, I didn’t know it was still available if I’m honest! Who knew you could make so many different dishes with it?! 🙂
I’ve always liked SPAM and am constantly trying new ways to cook it. It’s just so easy and convenient and it taste so darn good. Thanks for sharing, I’d have had a blast at the SpamJam.
I have never actually tasted SPAM but from looking at all these amazing foods from SPAMjam I am now intrigued to give SPAM a shot! Thanks for the post and the photos Andi!!
It looks like you had a great time. Those dishes are so mouthwatering and I can’t wait to try one of them
That is a lot of SPAM! I have never had SPAM before but my husband has and he likes it.
LOVE the photos, LOVE the ideas for the use of SPAM but…I just…no. Maybe I should try it again as it has been a long while, and obviously thirteen years of delicious SPAMcon…Spam Jam haha…should convince me to try it again…but…I just dunno if I can. 😉
I can’t believe there is this much hype over SPAM! My hubby would go nuts for this SPAM JAM as he is a SPAM JUNKY too!!!!
I don’t think I couls bring myself to eat Spam, but it sure does sound like a fun event. I have always wanted to go to Waikiki!
I had no idea there was such Spam love and that there’s a celebration! I haven’t had it in years but my Dad used to love to fry it.
Spam TOTALLY deserves its own celebration! I love that stuff. We ate it all the time growing up.
I’ve heard of how popular SPAM is in Hawaii, what with the SPAM Musubi and all that, but to see it in pictures. That’s an entirely different story! I can’t say I am particularly in love with it, but I would love to actually give Musubi I try I think1 Now that I see the pictures though, I want Spam and eggs. I haven’t had that in maybe 5 years?
I remember eating spam as a child – and potted meat, too! 🙂 I haven’t eaten it in years, but for a chance to go to Hawaii I would gobble it down. Those waffle dogs looked awesome!
I’ll admit that I’m not a huge fan of Spam at all however, I can’t believe how many different ways there are to prepare this!!
I never thought I’d say this, but most of those look so good! I think the lumpia would have been my favorite! What an awesome experience! Thanks for sharing your trip and all the food with us!
Hawaii and Spam what could be better. Hawaii is on my list to go on vacation. I will have to make sure I go when they are having this. Looks like way to much fun!
I have never had spam in my life, though it is impressive that you can have it in so many diverse ways! I would be up to trying it,!
Spam and eggs is such a classic breakfast. It would be fun to talk to people and learn about all of these spam recipes.
We’re big fans of SPAM and we have been patronizing the brand for years now. It’s great to eat with eggs and rice for breakfast. $15000+ is a lot of money! Wow!
@Rochkirstin, eggs, rice and SPAM is the best!
I grew up having spam for breakfast and still have every now and then. Those food looks very mouthwatering, I want to try them all! This looks like a very fun event aside from the amazing foods, Hawaii looks marvelous! Oh how I want to go to Hawaii so bad.
I never realized all the different types of dishes and treats one could make with spam! They all look quote good actually! Looks like it would be a fun event to attend!
I love Spam. I never tried it until I met my husband and his family. They cook it in so many ways, and we eat it like once a week. Spam fried rice for the win, it’s delicious!
@Nina, I am definitely more of a fan since the festival!
Honestly didn’t know this place existed. We don’t have one in South Africa so this is new to me but sounds interesting! 🙂 Maybe I will find one when I’m traveling.
Well doesn’t that look like a lot of fun. Plus the food looks delicious, I have to make it out there to visit.
This would be an amazing event to go to. I love Spam but i did not know there were so many delicious ways to prepare it.
@Ann, me either until this event, now my eyes have been opened to the world of possibilities!
We like spam in a friendrice. I would like to make some like that on your photos. SpamJam looks like fun!
@Chubskulit, fried rice with SPAM is the best!
Your post and pictures are making me really hungry! I love Spam and we usually use it macaroni salads we make.
@Bonnie, mac salad! I didn’t have it that way – original!
Now those waffle dogs look pretty doggone good!! There’s so many fun things in the islands to eat and I always feel like I’m missing out! Booooo.
@Jenni, it was fantastic, I want to replicate it at home!
Seeing as I date a Hawaiian, the SpamJam has been a major conversation over the years. It looks like it was a lot of fun!
@Aida, April 30 next year, come check it out!
I’ve tried and it I just can’t like SPAM. But, Waikiki sounds very fun!
Gosh, I think that the last time I had Spam was YEARS ago. Like when I was kid years ago, lol. This looked like such a fun event! And I have to admit- I am blown away by the creativity this chefs displayed! 🙂
@Carrie, April 30 next year, come and see!
I know that SPAM inspires passion in those who love it and it looks like they came out to shine in this event. I’ve had it a few time and it can be really good if prepared right.
NO WAY, how fun is this??! What a fun event and seriously – who knew there were so many ways to serve Spam! 🙂 Really a fun post, Andi, thanks for sharing!
@Kimberly, I had no idea as well, my eyes have been wide opened!
I’d never heard of this event. I had no idea you could do so much with Spam!
Omg this has to be the most unique uses of spam I have ever seen! Believe it or it I use to ask my parents for spam all the time when I was super little lol…
Okay you may have convinced me to give Spam another go. This looks amazing!
@Lindsay, check out the Hormel website for recipes, lots of great things (a lot of which I tried!).
I remember Anthony Bourdain eating a bunch of Spam items and he loved them. This looks fun and thank you for sharing with us.
My middle daughter’s boyfriend was raised in Japan and came to the mainland for college and has stayed here since. However, he has quite a few fun stories about the unusual food he ate when in Hawaii. I know he was disappointed he wasn’t able to make it to the Spam Jam. He’s rather obsessed with Spam, and I really need to find some fun recipes to make for him when he’s over.
@Linda, the SPAM website has a lot of great recipes. But he should definitely try to get to the festival if he loves it so much!