Recreating Family Dinners

Growing up in Hawaii, we had weekly family dinners.  And oh were they fun.  At one dinner, I remember tricking my sister into eating shrimp by hiding it in a hot dog.

I have to chuckle at what we thought was funny.  Those weekly family dinners in Hawaii were always worthwhile because they were an opportunity to connect.  I don’t remember what we ate, only that it was ono (tasty).  It was more because we spent time with extended family and built relationships over the years that these meals became such a place of nostalgia for me. I’ve missed those dinners being so far away in Iowa.  

Enter The Aloha Table

It was when I decided that we needed more community right here that I began regularly hosting dinners of my own.  I decided to call it The Aloha Table.

Why The Aloha Table?

the aloha table in des moines, iowaThe Aloha spirit speaks to a welcoming and relaxed attitude that is embraced by the people of Hawaii.  It’s a casual, come-as-you-are atmosphere that I felt everyone in my life in the Midwest could benefit from.  Since I wasn’t moving back to Hawaii any time soon, I thought I’d bring the Aloha spirit to Iowa. 

What’s this got to do with wellness?

Gathering people around food is what I love to do, and I believe it’s more powerful for good health than eating your veggies!  This means not being too concerned with how “healthy” a food is.  Instead, I wanted to focus on making meals from scratch with the best ingredients—and with a little aloha.

My desire was to reinvigorate hospitality and the practice of inviting people into the home.  In the age of Pinterest and cooking shows, many people I meet feel their homes aren’t “nice” enough or don’t feel that needed confidence in the kitchen to have others over.  The Aloha Table would be my way of leading by example.

Hawaiian Island Favorites

I thought it made sense to launch The Aloha Table featuring a menu of Hawaiian favorites.  When mainlanders (those in the 48 contiguous states) think of Hawaiian food, they often think of a luau. But there are so many ono foods in Hawaii that it’s hard to pick favorites!  Having said that, SPAM musubi is unique to Hawaii and my kids love it, so I had to include it on the menu.  And luckily, it’s easy to make!

How to Make SPAM Musubi

There are two key pieces of equipment you need to make SPAM Musubi:

I prefer the Instant Pot because the inner pot is stainless steel (instead of non-stick) and it can do so much more than cook rice!  Both can be found on Amazon (of course).  Short grain rice is also necessary for making musubi. For those who didn’t know, you can’t get long grain rice to stick together!  I get mine in 20-pound bags from Costco, but if you don’t want a huge bag of it, you can find short grain rice in the Asian section of most grocery stores. 

SPAM Success at The Aloha Table

At The Aloha Table, we try to give everyone a chance to get involved with their food.  For this dinner, every invitee got to make their own SPAM musubi and enjoy it as an appetizer. 

The SPAM is flavored with a teriyaki sauce. While a bottled sauce like Kikkoman works fine and has a pretty clean ingredient list, you can eliminate refined sugar by using pineapple juice.  Besides…anything Hawaiian is expected to have pineapple in it, right?  And by using gluten-free tamari, those who are gluten sensitive can also enjoy SPAM musubi.

I hope you’ll try making your own SPAM musubi for a little taste of Hawaii.  Even better, invite some friends over to make it with you!

eating dinner with friends

SPAM Musubi
Yields 8
A Hawaiian Island favorite including SPAM pan fried and basted with a pineapple teriyaki sauce on a block of rice and wrapped in nori. You've got to try it to believe it's that good! 😉
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
  1. 2 cups short grain rice, cooked
  2. 1 can SPAM
  3. 2 Tablespoons pineapple juice (no sugar added)
  4. 2 Tablespoons gluten-free tamari
  5. 3 sheets roasted nori, cut into thirds
  1. Cook rice in Instant Pot on rice setting (12 minutes). When it beeps, let it naturally release pressure for 11 minutes. Completely release any pressure left, remove lid and fluff rice. Let rice rest.
  2. Remove SPAM from can and lay on it's side. Cut SPAM parallel to the top into 8 slices. Heat a large skillet on medium high. If using non-stick, place spam in skillet once it's hot. If using stainless steel, add a touch of olive or avocado oil (1/2 Tablespoon) to the skillet. Once you add the SPAM to the skillet, turn heat down to medium.
  3. Let SPAM cook 1-2 minutes or until it starts to brown. Flip over and cook the other side 1-2 minutes. Add pineapple juice and gluten free soy sauce to the pan. Flip each piece over to fully coat with sauce, then cook about 1 minute and flip again. Continue cooking and turning SPAM, letting the sauce thicken and evaporate. Once the SPAM reaches a nice color, remove it to a plate.
  4. SPAM musubi assembly: Locate the lines on one side of a sheet of nori. Cut each nori sheet into 3 strips following the direction of the lines. Lay a nori strip on a cutting board or clean countertop. Center your musubi mold on the nori strip. Scoop roughly 1/2 cup cooked rice into your mold (a little more or less to your liking). Insert the top of the mold and press down to shape the rice into a firm layer. Remove the mold and lay a piece of Spam on top of the rice.
  5. Fold the nori over the rice and spam and turn the finished musubi over so that it's laying on the overlapping ends. The steam from the warm rice will help the ends stick together. Repeat the process until all the SPAM is used.
  6. Best if eaten while warm.
  1. Very portable. Makes great picnic food or cold lunch for the kids. 😉
The Aloha Table with Dani Lin